Waah. The fadeout moment for Video Americain is upon us.
The grungy, great Baltimore video rental company’s last remaining outlet – the Roland Park store at the corner of Cold Spring Lane and Keswick Road – is open until Sunday March 16 and then it’s shutting down for good, after 25 years.
The squeal of the door swinging open, that musty smell (mingling with the fragrance of the staff’s take-out food du jour), the smorgasboard of videos overflowing from the shelves – we won’t be getting that from Netflix.
More importantly, we won’t be getting that enthusiastic film-nerd staff who always put on a sort of cinema verite production of their own from behind the counter with a mixture of great recommendations, withering scorn and often quite amusing ultra-hard-core cineastic debates with each other and customers.
(There’s a big, long City Paper oral-history-fond-farewell to Video Americain in this week’s edition.)
I went in there about a week ago and, even as they sell off their inventory at deep discounts, co-owners Barry and Annie Solan were cheerfully dispensing advice for customers looking to snap up particular beloved movies at bargain basement prices.
Annie was so excited when she thought I was asking for movies by the child actor Jackie Coogan.
“Oooh, that’s interesting,” she said, combing through a list on their computer. “The Charlie Chaplin era or the Addams Family era?”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her I’d seen “The Trip” and had misspoken and was actually asking about something much less cool, movies with the actor Steve Coogan.
Anyway, even though all the big-name popular titles had been sold weeks ago, I came away with a crazy collection of movies to watch, most for less than $10 each. “My Joy,” by Sergei Loznitsa (“beautiful as a bruise” the box blurb quotes The Guardian saying), “Mr. Bean’s Holiday,” with rubber-faced Rowan Atkinson, “To Live,” by Zhang Yimou (great director, how could it miss?), Werner Herzog’s “Signs of Life” (ditto) and “I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” starring Paul Muni. And quite a few more.
Just as always with Video Americain, there will be, in among the duds and the meh-movies , some that are quite good and others that are so-bad-they’re-good and still others that are just odd and interesting and teach me something new.
Anyway, thanks for the memories, Video Americain. You will be missed.