The Classic Film Discussion Group has been meeting to breakdown the importance of cinema for the past three years. The group, which was started by Walter Brice, is currently led by Tony Stephens and Jerry Lincecum.
“He asked me because I had offered some film study classes at Austin College, which met one evening a week for a film screening followed by discussion,” Lincecum said in an email about how he became the discussion leader for the group. “The classes enrolled AC students for credit and townspeople were invited to attend at no charge. We had very spirited discussions with exchanges of viewpoint between young students and older townspeople, including Walter.”
Brice was the former manager of the Rialto Theater in Denison. At that time, the theater featured current movies.
“He and I worked together in scheduling a movie based on a play by Horton Foote at a time when I hosted Mr. Foote for a visit and lecture at AC,” Lincecum’s email explained. “Walter envisioned the classic film group as a ministry of Covenant Presbyterian Church, of which he was an active member, to the larger community. Initially most attendees were affiliated with the church but as word spread the group attracted a dozen or so each month, including people not connected with the church.”
The group still meets at the church, which is located at 322 W. Pecan Street in Sherman, on the second Wednesday of each month.
“At first, we just picked the next movie each month from suggestions by attendees,” Lincecum said. “Then, we held a meeting at 3 month intervals to pick the next set of movies. Now we have chosen to pick movies six months at a time, based on suggestions from the group plus a consideration of variety based on different genres or types of film.”
There was also a need to establish two general limitations. Classic to them means films released no later than 1970 and the length of the films selected had to be two hours or less.
“Most of the films we screen can be seen on Turner Classic movies or other networks, but the experience of watching a film by yourself is different from watching it with others that you know will want to discuss it immediately after the screening,” Lincecum said. “When a discussion leader can provide background information, such as the fact that ‘Intruder in the Dust’ was filmed in Faulkner’s hometown over a six week period with about 500 local residents serving as extras for crowd scenes, that adds to one’s understanding of certain scenes and certain issues that the film deals with. It also helps one’s understanding to be informed about reasons why film critics praised or faulted a film and whether a film was popular at the time of its release.”
While Lincecum generally enjoys Alfred Hitchcock films, Stephens is more drawn to films with a high IMDb or multi-star viewer rating. He also pays attention to the mood that the film leaves him with and whether he thinks that it will be engaging for the audience that makes up the discussion group.
“Obviously, the discussions are different for a comedy film or a musical,” Lincecum said. “We view comedies to be entertained and amused, and simply to laugh is good for us. We can then discuss how did the script and the actors make us laugh and what insight can we gain by singling out certain scenes, bits of dialogue, or the way the actors performed. A musical places emphasis on the performance by dancers or singers as well as the music itself.”
Films that are viewed in a theater or on television without context may affect one’s understanding of the film, Lincecum continued. On Aug. 8, the group watched “Intruder in the Dust.”
“In our discussion last night several people commented or asked questions about the involvement of townspeople in the making of this film,” Lincecum’s email said. “I was able to give information about how they received the film when it was first shown. This film had a very clear and distinct statement of a ‘message’ at the end, which suggested that adult men tend to have more set views about ethical issues, whereas women and young men are more open to exploring a number of possibilities. Several people commented that they agree with this idea.”