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March 3, 2011

Sylvain Chomet's Oscar-nominated animated feature film, The Illusionist tells a sad tale about the losing battle of artists to commerce.

The beautifully-drawn though obtusely-plotted movie is packed with scenes in which characters whip out bills to pay for things, ask for cash in return for services rendered and yearn for things they can't afford to buy.

Saddest of all, however, is experiencing the film, as I did last night, at the Clay Theatre in the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. The venue was practically empty.

This beautiful art deco movie house has been around since 1910. Last year the single-screen cinema threatened to close but locals are campaigning to keep it open.

I'm chagrined to say that if more people don't attend screenings there, the powers of commerce will once again vanquish art as they do in The Illusionist. It's hard to imagine how the Clay can stay afloat when there are only a handful of people in the audience as was the case last night.


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