Of all the places at Yale that I returned to regularly and with purpose over the four years that I spent there as a student, one venue on the Old Campus stands out: 101 Linsly-Chittenden Hall. It was a classroom by day but, on three to five nights a week, the dual 16mm projectors in the projection booth at the back thrust out onto the white screen pulled down in front of the blackboard wall the offerings of the Yale Film Society.
I was thrilled to discover the Film Society and the wealth of cinema classics I came to see at 101 Linsly-Chit. During our first year at Yale, in that overheated room stuffy with tobacco smoke, I saw for the first time movies that transformed my perception of the world – Carl Dreyer’s “The Passion of Joan of Arc”, Ernst Lubitsch’s “Trouble in Paradise”, Luis Buñuel’s “Los Olvidados”, Satyajit Ray’s “Devi”, and more.
Perhaps my Linsly-Chit viewing experiences did not affect me as emotionally and profoundly as seeing Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid” at a Sunday matinee in a 1930’s movie palace crammed with Bengali children in Kolkata (then Calcutta) where I lived during my year abroad as a Fellow of Yale’s Experimental Five-Year B.A. Program – but two years of Linsly-Chit helped prepare me for it. It also prepared me for being taken most unexpectedly under the wing of Satyajit Ray himself, visiting him often in his home and then being allowed to observe the actual making of the film he had been writing and prepping.
I returned to the US with new eyes, hungry to begin to understand the experience of the fuller and more whole world that India had introduced to me… and returned to Yale for two more years of study… and two more years of movies at the Film Society in 101 Linsly-Chit. And during the year after most of the rest of the Class of ’70 had graduated, I found myself with one more year at Yale and responsible for the screenings of the Film Society as its Chair.
I can’t help but wonder: Is that projection booth still in 101 Linsly-Chit? Are the projectors digital now? Does the Yale Film Society still screen movies there?
– Edward Landler