If you’re a Toronto resident, or have been on campus for the past month and a half, you have probably seen flyers made by Reg Hartt. They’re in black and white, with titles in big black letters and quotes from different sources, that promote Hartt and his screenings. They also feature images, the most prominent being Nosferatu, a character from F.W. Murnau’s 1922 Dracula adaptation of the same name. What these flyers are advertising are screenings at Reg Hartt’s Cineforum, a theater in his own home.

Posters advertising Reg Hartt’s screenings – Image courtesy of Torontoist

Reg Hartt was born in New Brunswick but moved to Toronto at a young age, screening movies around the city until settling in his home on Bathurst & College in 1992 and dubbing it the Cineforum. The films Hartt screens tend to be from the early to mid-20th century, with a focus on horror, animation, and bizarre oddities of days past. Nosferatu is one of his more common screenings, showing every weekend this October. From his own experimental filmmaking, one of Hartt’s more famous productions is Kid Dracula, which pairs Nosferatu with Radiohead’s album Kid A. Instead of using the original score, Hartt picked out the music himself, using classical pieces from Beethoven, Chopin and more.

I decided to attend a screening of Nosferatu on a rainy Saturday night to experience the Cineforum for myself. Even though the flyer warns to “come with someone with whom you can sleep after the film,” I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. In fact, I was the only person who showed up. Hartt’s home is one of those narrow houses, a bit run down with a red neon sign to get the attention of guests. The Cineforum itself is what would probably be the living room of a regular house – a very tight space with six rows of three office chairs for seating. On the walls, posters (mostly for classic horror films, though a poster for The Twilight Saga: New Moon stands out) and masks surround you at every angle. I’ve heard great things about the 1922 Nosferatu, though I’m sure like many university students, my main association with the vampire is from his traumatizing appearance in the SpongeBob episode, “Graveyard Shift.” Still, the movie is well worth watching, and the appearance of Nosferatu is viscerally terrifying and the biggest strength of the film. Reg Hartt’s music selections also fit very well with the images at points, and I’m glad I got to experience it differently.

While he does have many fans, Reg Hartt is not always viewed in the best light. Reg Hartt experience isn’t perfect, but it’s clear by looking around the room that he is very passionate about movies and that he wants to share that passion with others.

If you’re looking for something different to do in the city, the Cineforum is a recommended experience to watch a movie in a new way, even if you’re not familiar with the types of films Hartt shows.

One thought on “The Cineforum: Reg Hartt and Toronto’s Alternative Film Scene”

  1. “While he does have many fans, Reg Hartt is not always viewed in the best light. Reg Hartt experience isn’t perfect, but it’s clear by looking around the room that he is very passionate about movies and that he wants to share that passion with others.”

    Glad you made it over. Too bad the people you talked with are sticks in the mud.
    Some years ago I was invited to teach at The University of Toronto’s School For Continuing Studies. “You will like it here. We get the cream of the crop. We get the ones with money,” the caller said.

    I went over to see if the people who had called me were as silly as they sounded. They were and are. When I let them know the contempt I have for them I was told, “Of course, you realize your name is mud on this campus.”

    If it is mud then why was I invited to teach there?

    Emo Philips sent me a post card on which he had written, “I honestly believe you are the greatest teacher I know.”

    That’s high praise.

    My programs in Toronto were and are inspired by the original Paris Cinematheque of Claude Chabrol and Henri Langlois.

    Why Producers Hate Hiring Film School Grads
    https://filmschoolsecrets.com/why-producers-hate-hiring-film-school-grads/
    “Reg Hartt has a feel for film unique in this country…genius level.”—Elwy Yost.
    “Reg Hartt has had an amazing impact given the size of the venue and the esoteric nature of the programming. He’s had an incredible impact on the city. No one else is doing it. No one else has ever done it.”–Rob Salem.
    “Reg Hartt teaches like Neal Cassady drove a bus.”—Joe Fiorito, Toronto Star.
    Q: Did growing up in Toronto influence your obsession?
    A: My knowledge of silent films, German and French cinema, came an awful lot from Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. At first he showed films at Innis College, then he had a place on Mercer St. for a while. Reg showed some really incredible silent films, from Phantom of the Opera to D.W. Griffith’s films. His strength was putting incredibly good soundtracks on the films. He has a really good ear for movie music and back in the good old days when it was all analog, he would splice them together himself.

    https://www.thestar.com/life/food_wine/2013/04/05/a_drink_with_shirley_hughes_director_toronto_silent_film_festival.html

    https://www.throwdown815.com/single-post/INTERVIEW/Shirley-Hughes

    A city that sees value in rules, but no value in letting Reg Hartt bend them, has no right to claim Jane Jacobs’ legacy, writes Edward Keenan.
    https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2016/06/27/cineforum-deserves-a-happy-ending-to-its-saga-keenan.html

    The city should drop its misguided fight against Reg Hartt…
    https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2016/06/28/the-city-should-leave-cineforum-alone-editorial.html

    “I am a friend of Reg Hartt.
    “So is anyone who can appreciate a man who teaches film the way Neal Cassady drove a bus.
    “I mean that, where you have style wrapped around content and tied with a ribbon of beat improvisation, there you have angels.
    “Harvey Pekar was an angel.
    “And I’ve never met anyone with wings who did not have an ego. Nor is this an easy town for a man who is larger than life, and does not to suffer fools.
    “You might like to know that the friends of Reg Hartt included the non-fool-suffering Jane Jacobs, who knew a thing or two about what, and who, makes life worth living in the city; that’s good enough for me.”
    https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2010/09/15/fiorito_we_gotta_have_hartt.html

    MICHAEL VALPY, GLOBE AND MAIL.
    “REG HARTT is what living in a metropolis is all about. He personifies the city as a meeting place of ideas, as a feast of experience and discussion and debate, as a triumph of the original and provoking over the banal and soporific.”

    Paul McGrath, THE GLOBE AND MAIL
    Some audience members were visibly distressed by the frequency and force of Hartt’s interjections into the program but it is clearly his chosen way of doing things, and the payoff in information is worth it. He has many good stories to tell: about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit’s transformation into Mickey Mouse, Disney’s most enduring character; about the furor that greeted the creation of Tweety Pie, which subsided only when the artists painted him yellow; and much valuable technical information for the animation students. He has some interesting tales about Mel Blanc, Warners’ resident genius of voice characterization, as he continues the series with a full scale look at the Warner work of Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett, Friz Freleng, and others. It’s the best work of its kind you will see anywhere because, except in rare oases in the United States and Eastern-Europe, they don’t make them like that anymore.

    JULIA SCUTARU, retired journalist, Bucharest, Romania, 2000: “In Toronto, I discovered by chance, Cineforum. Pure chance but a fortunate one. In that small room exhaling culture, passion and dedication, I watched the movie TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, an important historical, political and social document., and real artistic achievement….As a journalist (in Romania) I worked in the cultural field, including film reviews. Therefore I came to the Cineforum not just as a movie lover, but as a knowledgeable professional…We live in an era authoritatively dominated by brainwashing and political correctness…I admired Reg Hartt’s courage and passion put in searching out and defending the human truth, the artistic truth, the historical truth; the Truth and unveiling it…Discovering Reg Hartt and his Cineforum was one of the most important events of my visit in Toronto.”

    DAVID BEARD, owner CINEBOOKS, quoted in THE TORONTO STAR, Nov. l, l979
    “This man has devoted his whole life to bringing the film classics to the public. He treats animation-cartoons, if you will-as art. He is underfinanced, overworked and snubbed. I think we should pay tribute to him.

    GREG WILLIAMS, MA (Ph, D. Candidate), President, University College Film Society, and Chairman of the Subcommittee for film, U. C. Symposium: I wish we had more time to chat together last night about our respective (and mutual) interests in film.
    ‘Cineforum’ has attained the status of an institution; it represents an achievement of which you should rightly feel proud.

    “I can only hope the ‘University College Film Society’ will someday approximate its success and that I will, personally, match your inspired delivery as a master of ceremonies.

    “As a newcomer to the business of arranging film programs, so far I am your equal perhaps only in enthusiasm. Thus I find your presentations to be not only exceptional in their content but also edifying in their execution. As an academic (in the field of English) I am also impressed by the high scholarly standard that pervades your informed and witty introductions,

    “I frequently wonder if you have ever considered writing a history…some very good books have been written…but no text has dealt with it in a definitive way. A marshaling of your knowledge would, I am certain, produce a very fine volume indeed.”

    DOUGLAS ELIUK, education officer NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA, formerly Canada’s Cultural Attache to America, .
    “(REG) Hartt is acknowledged as a phenomenon in the film community. He is someone who does not rely on government grants, subsidies or institutional protection to generate his film activities. He depends entirely on his intelligence, talent and resourcefulness. His events are produced with care and good sense, in a clean and friendly atmosphere and with an almost avuncular consideration for his fans, As a film officer for the National Film Board of Canada for 30 years, I have seldom seen anyone who added so much substance and passion to the cultural fabric of our society as he has done with his lectures and presentations.”

    From a letter to Ottawa’s Towne Cinema;
    “Last week I finally got a chance to see a film I have been trying to see for literally years. That film is METROPOLIS, and I don’t mean Giorgio Moroder’s head-banger version. No, I’m talking about the most complete version of the film as it was meant to be seen in a l6mm print so clear, so clean you’d think the film was made a year ago. Wow. I mean I have been hearing stories about METROPOLIS for a long time, but I never thought my expectations would be met let alone far
    surpassed. And this without the “help” of Mr. Moroder. Does this mean there wasn’t a soundtrack?

    “Far from it. Accompanying the film was a brilliant (and I mean brilliant) soundtrack combining both modern music and classical pieces. This soundtrack suited the film when we all know Moroder’s didn’t. So who has this print of the film? Reg Hartt….If you know anything about Reg Hartt you know his lectures are anything but boring. He’s thrown chairs at people, kicked non-believers out, slandered near everyone under the sun (who usually deserves it) and started near riots. In other words, a real entertaining guy. Honestly. Reg is a lot of fun, he knows more about film (and the politics of film) than all of my teachers combined. And his soundtracks!”

    DOUGLAS ELIUK, education officer National Film Board of Canada; Canadian Cultural Attache to America: “I have left so many cinemas looking like I’ve been smelling onions for two hours that it is a pleasure and a catharsis to alert you to a redeeming film experience I enjoyed recently. It was not exactly an epiphany, but when something brilliant comes along, it deserves comment beyond self congratulations on managing to stay awake.

    “What I’m referring to is a recent screening of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS I attended at Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. I’ve seen the film with every sort of accompaniment except organ grinder and a monkey. When organ and even the now rare orchestral accompaniments have been attached to one of the “silent” classics, it is still hard to avoid the giggle factor what with all the usual silent movie grand overwrought gestural school of acting methods. However, Reg Hartt has completely transcended the predictable approach and has presented a classic film with a brilliant multi-layered sound track that forgives the histrionic giggle factor. Hartt allows us to see a great film with a fresh perspective.

    “I am not Mr. Hartt’s P. R. council but as someone who has been in the film industry for decades and who celebrates cinematic excellence,I hope you will take the opportunity to experience this superb revitalization of METROPOLIS with its innovative music track.”

    PETER MOORE, British Artist.

    “I am a Brit artist. I love Toronto. I have sometimes heard it said that Toronto is boring. It is a comparatively well ordered city. Maybe that is why some imperceptive people think it boring. The thing is I keep having amazing successes in Toronto. My friend Bob Welton who decided he was much happier in Warsaw than in London used to say in London everything is possible and nothing is probable. I just find in Toronto not everything is possible but lots of things, important things, are quite probable. Does this make sense?

    “ANYWAY, a wonderful surprise in Toronto is Reg Hartt’s Cineforum. I was walking down Bloor Street with my friend Alan, a composer, a Torontonian who, searching for fulfillment in London, has realized that everything he wanted existed in his original home, Toronto. It was my birthday. He said, “What do you want to do for your birthday?” I said, “I want to go and see that!”

    “I was pointing at a mysterious poster for TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, (the film of Hitler’s l934 Nuremberg rally). I’d always wanted to see that.

    “So we went and I found myself in the most perfect place on earth to watch a film. With the film was an unexpected treat….a brilliant, unbiased, sensible and stimulating introduction by the amazing Reg Hartt.

    “So once again, in German mode, we went to see Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS. Reg had somehow spliced on to the film his own soundtrack. Now this was interesting because a while later we went to the Art Gallery of Ontatio where the same film was shown-much bigger screen-and with piano accompaniment. It was interesting to compare the two showings. Reg’s came out winning.”

    So, yes, there are a few folk who don’t like me.

    David Mamet, in his books TRUE AND FALSE and BAMBI VS. GODZILLA, states, “Invent nothing. Deny nothing. Stand up. Speak up. Stay out of school.”

    https://nofilmschool.com/2014/11/10-reasons-not-to-go-film-school-practical-guide-impractical-decision-jason-b-kohl

    Jane Jacobs, a patron of my work from her arrival in Toronto,the most important thinker and writer about cities of our time until her death over a few beers in her home, said, “The best part of what you offer is what you have to say.”

    Your classmates (and teachers) should do themselves a favor, drop the attitude and come to The Cineforum.

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