Ever been struck by lightning while watching a movie?

That is to say, can you remember an occasion when a particular moment in a movie changed the way you watch movies?

Was there a foreign film that opened the door to an appreciation of subtitled movies? Or a sequence that made you interested in something other than just The Story?

In the last pages of Through a Screen Darkly, I wrote about Mike Hertenstein, the guy behind the Cornerstone festival’s excellent film program Flickerings. I haven’t seen Mike since my visit to Cornerstone in 2003, and that bothers me. I really admire his passion to introduce unsuspecting audiences to celebrated international cinema. He can’t make lightning strike, but he knows how to create conditions in which such revelations are likely.

So I’m delighted that he’s blogging now at Filmwell.

Here’s an excerpt from Hertenstein’s first fantastic Filmwell post:

Back when I was even more of a novice at international films, I became aware of the then-peaking excitement about Iranian cinema.Eager to keep pressing ahead into new territory, I checked out Taste of Cherry.At the time, I didn’t know about Ebert’s review of the film, but mine was essentially the same: after a couple hours driving around with this guy looking for somebody to help him kill himself, I was ready to volunteer.Indeed, just as I’d felt I was getting the hang of subtitled films, I’d felt I’d been driven by Kiarostami into a brick wall.

Then, a couple years later, I lucked into that most precious of gifts: a press pass to the Chicago International Film Festival: and with it, the luxury of sampling films I might never have risked the price of admission.Among these was a new documentary by Kiarostami, about an AIDS clinic in Uganda.I figured I owed this buzz director another try, and this film turned out to be not nearly as challenging as the last – but ABC Africa frustrated me nonetheless.It seemed to violate that unspoken contract between audience and filmmaker: to supply me with information as economically as possible.At one point, this filmmaker left his digital video camera on a windowsill during a nighttime rainstorm – in other words, the screen was completely black, for an eternity.I was outraged.I GOT it, I thought.The rain.The darkness.The thunder.I was ready for What Happens Next.But I was left sitting there, feeling like Kiarostami really was less genius than crazy – worse, that he was enjoying some kind of inside joke I was left out of.

Then, finally, it happened: lightning struck, and I don’t just mean in the movie.For a split second, the jungle outside the window lit up, then the screen went black again.But I saw the light.I tore up that contract about film being mostly about information.I finally understood that What Happens Next was merely one pleasure of cinema, and maybe not even the greatest.C. S. Lewis said that plot is a net to catch Something Else.In an unexpected flash, Kiarostami illuminated for me that Something Else – and left me hungry for more.

If you’ve had a lightning-bolt moment… do share.

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