My transformation from casual movie enthusiast to full-blown cinema addict occurred during the summer of 1989, between my 1st and 2nd years of college. Clichés exist because of their inherent truths, so it should come as no surprise that my entry into this obsessive world occurred while working at a Blockbuster Video in San Francisco.
I was still primarily a theater snob at the time, but that changed that summer. The store had this huge catalog listing all the movies "in print" on video, and one section was organized by director. When I wasn't at work, I was watching movies, taking full advantage of the six VHS tapes I could have out for free at any one time. I worked my way down the lists and discovered Wilder and Sturges, Ford and Kazan, Lumet and Scorsese and so many more.
Before my Blockbuster tenure, my foreign-cinema exposure was mostly limited to lyrics from the song "Manchester, England" in the musical Hair: "Finds that it's groovy/to hide in a movie/Pretends he's Fellini/And Antonioni/And also his countryman Roman Polanski/All rolled into one." I knew those names, but I hadn't yet seen any of their films.
I enjoyed watching a filmmaker's work in chronological order, so I watched Boxcar Bertha and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn before I ever got to Taxi Driver or On the Waterfront. And so about midway through that summer, I decided to embark on Peter Bogdnovich, and rather than start with The Last Picture Show, I took home Targets.
I don't remember much from that viewing nearly 25 years ago, and until The Dissolve picked Bogdanovich's debut feature as last week's "Movie of the Week," I'm not sure I had ever considered watching it again. Once I did, I was first struck by how well I actually remembered it; how so many scenes vividly stuck with me all these years later. I could not reconcile that whatever impact it had on me nearly 25 years before was an unconscious one, and now I felt floored by this young filmmaker's astounding love-letter to cinema and Hollywood; one of the best I've ever seen.
My appreciation for Targets is grounded in a reality that didn't exist when I was barely 18 years old -- for me or for the world. The contextual lens through which I now saw it made all the difference. Now I know much more about Boganovich and his career. Now I know much more about the history of American cinema and the important role of low-budget horror films to its development. Now, I see how a film that was shot as the Vietnam War was dominating the nation's consciousness and was released within four months of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy is such a representative document of its time. Enhance this context even further simply by paying attention to 2013 when the physical medium of film nears extinction, drive-in theaters are (mostly) long-gone and gun culture and terrorism are at the forefront of the national conversation, Targets becomes even more astounding in ways that couldn't have been anticipated when it was made, let alone in 1989.