Train Spotting: Matt Gress at the Coolidge Corner Station

MATTGRESSIf you lack familiarity with the Coolidge Corner Theatre — Brookline’s approximately 80-year-old, nonprofit cinematic institution — you’re either very new to the city or a total cinephobe. Head projectionist Matt Gress has spent a decade, and then some, screening contemporary indie films, classics, and “classics” at the retro-cool complex. He’s also a member of an endangered, soon-to-be extinct species of professional. Because digital projection techniques have become almost universal at movie houses, hardly anyone outside of major cities knows how to manually cast moving pictures captured on traditional film onto big honkin’ screens, so he told us. He also explained a few things about grindhouse films and slightly snuffy Italian horror flicks from the early ‘80s, when we caught up with him after hopping the C line to Coolidge Corner.

Do you think people who only see digitally-projected films are missing out on anything?

It’s a matter of personal aesthetics. Some people really like the way film looks, but frankly, I think most people either don’t know the difference or don’t think it’s that big of a deal. If the movie’s good, the movie’s good, y’know?

So it’s not the same thing as the vinyl vs. MP3 debate?

Not entirely. With film you’re going to see grain. With digital you’re going to see pixels. So it’s basically pick your poison.

You mentioned that you’re a big fan of grindhouse films. Remember Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse double feature from six years ago?

I didn’t see that. I like grindhouse films, but I didn’t want to see a replica.

Huh. Wonder if that’s part of the reason why those movies didn’t make much money.

Yeah, they spent more on those films than anyone would have ever spent on an actual grindhouse film. With grindhouse, a lot of the time, they’re made so cheaply and cynically that they generally don’t deliver anything of much quality. Often, the people who made them would maybe make one or two prints and just play them until they were too beat up. They’d squeeze every last dollar out of a film they didn’t spend much making. Whereas, if you’re making a fake grindhouse movie and you’re Quentin Tarantino…

Fans of the genre were like, “This isn’t real grindhouse! I’m not watching!”

It’s completely culty. You’re either really into that stuff or you can’t understand why anyone would watch it. Grindhouse films are usually void of nice things like plots that make sense or good acting.

Anything coming up at the Coolidge that you’re looking forward to?

We’re going to be showing Cannibal Ferox at the end of the month. That’s my first opportunity to see that on film, so I’m looking forward to that. Um, Maniac, I’m going to see that pretty soon…. and Lawrence of Arabia.

Is Cannibal Ferox anything like Cannibal Holocaust?

It’s somewhat of a rip-off. This woman’s trying to prove that cannibals don’t exist in South America. So she gets in with some people who piss off the natives, and the natives kill them and eat them. It’s related to Holocaust in that it probably came out a year later and tries to top it in terms of gore and atrocities. There’s a penis amputation in Cannibal Ferox.

Can a penis amputation be hilarious, so long as it’s in a movie and not, y’know, real?

It’s definitely hilarious in this movie. The guy who gets his penis amputated rapes one of the natives, so they have to cut his penis off.

Have an idea for a personality we should interview for a future installment of ‘Train Spotting?’ Shoot us an email at letters@metro.us! 


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