"In the meantime, the only thing I could do was get a job at this video store because of my knowledge of movies. And it ended up being like my college, all right. It’s not that I learned so much about movies when I was there, they hired me because I was, you know, a movie geek, but it stopped me from having to work for a living, basically. I could just work at this place and talk about movies all day long and recommend movies all day long. And I got really comfortable. Too comfortable, as a matter of fact. It actually ruined me for ever having any real job, because it just became like a big clubhouse."
The above is a quote from Quentin Tarantino, who’s pretty much my favourite filmmaker for a variety of reasons, most having to do with how damn great movies like Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds are. But the fact that he worked in a video store before making it in Hollywood also plays a small part in the affection I feel towards him.
You see, I myself spent five of the best years of my life in a video store, from 2002 to 2007, and everything Tarantino says about working that beat rings true. You do basically spend all day talking about movies and it does get really comfortable!
I’m happy doing the journalist thing, but sometimes I still miss that clubhouse feeling – you know, spending whole evenings talking film with various colleagues (a whole bunch of folks came and went over those five years), particularly when my shift was with Jean Carlo and Sébastien. I love those dudes, but they couldn’t be more different, and we often spent hours arguing about this or that. The dynamic between us three actually inspired a short film in which we more or less played our own roles, Droits d’auteur(e), which was directed by Isabelle Hayeur, one of our favourite customers.
‘Cause yes, in between rants about the misunderstood genius of M. Night Shyamalan or whatnot, we did take time to serve people, which, contrary to what Kevin Smith had video store employee Randal say in Clerks ("This job would be great if it wasn’t for the fucking customers!"), added to the fun more often than not. Especially when I was renting DVDs to Jessica Paré, heh.
I’m reminiscing about this stuff because it was announced last week that the very store where I worked, La Boîte Noire Laurier, would be closing down in three months, after 15 years of operation. (The location on Mont-Royal will remain open.)
My old boss, François Poitras, wrote in a statement that excessive tax increases, endless construction work and harmful borough policies were to blame. But, of course, it can’t help that there are so many other ways now to watch movies at home, notably on-demand TV and Internet streaming services, not to mention illegal downloading.
There’ll come a time, if it hasn’t already, when new generations won’t ever experience the pleasure of walking up to your friendly neighbourhood video store, browsing through the aisles and picking up a flick you’ve never heard of before just because the cover caught your attention, or maybe because the clerk recommended it.
As for the next Tarantino, I guess he’ll have to find another, less comfortable way to make a living before he gets his break…
La Boîte Noire