Cohen Film Classics on KCET
Public Television Station KCET presents Cohen Film Classics, a new weekly series showcasing a world-renowned private collection of rare cinema that’s been preserved and restored under the stewardship of visionary film producer and series host Charles S. Cohen. The unique film library, with titles that span from 1924 to 2014, is a treasure trove of historic and entertaining movies from around the globe. In addition to the expected Hitchcock and Lang films, the selected films will also include the works of such cinematic luminaries as Luc Besson, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Douglas Fairbanks and many more. Cohen really digs deep into the overseen archives of yesterday's movie gems with the purpose of reintroducing some of the most iconic motion pictures ever made to a new generation of Southern California viewers. Cohen Film Classics with its namesake host premieres at 10 pm January 27. (Use image above as a link to a preview of the series).
Last December KCET hosted a meeting between the press and Charles S. Cohen as one of the many events surrounding the launch of the new series. The fortunate few were first treated to an exclusive tour of Cohen's office at the Pacific Design Center, followed by an informal round table discussion with the knowledgeable cinephile about the ten films scheduled for presentation and why the real-estate developer's will be taking on the role of host. Sadly, I was unable to attend the get together, but I did have access to Mr. Cohen via phone last Thursday. And let me tell you, this guy isn't just some wealthy billionaire (that's right, BILLIONAIRE) who happens to find cinema an amusing hobby. This guy really knows his stuff and exudes a love for the art of the craft I've rarely experienced outside of the industry. Of course, given his background he isn't really an outsider. He's had the movies in his blood since his youth.
In our brief interview Cohen's related how long before Realestate his first love was the movies. According to Cohen, "I've always been passionate about film ever since I saw Cinderella with my grandmother. We sat through it twice. I remember the theater, I remember the movie, I remember it all. It was uptown on the Eastside of Manhattan, in Washington Heights, a little bit further North than Columbia University". And he continued, "I remember the scene with the mice. The mice are sewing. Zipping around sewing something. I think they're sewing a dress". I asked if it captured his imagination and he enthusiastically answered, "you could say that again".
When asked about the closing of all the grand palaces that once dotted the city like stars, the Realestate mogul responded, "There are very few [theaters] that are left. In most places it's not the best use of the Realestate." To my glee, Cohen was happy to continue to reminisce, "When I was old enough to, in the suburbs North of Manhattan I would go on my own. I was thirteen, fourteen, fifteen years old. I went with a friend. We took the bus to the town that had multiple theaters with multi-features. It wasn't multiplexes, it was multiple features. Filmgoing for me was always about experiencing a window on the world many years before I had the privilege of going to Europe, and to travel away from my home. I experienced all these places by seeing them in films".
Cohen's recent collaboration with KCET enables the wealthy entrepreneur to share his passion with others. He said, "I'm very committed to restoring and preserving films, especially in the genre of classic films. I think that it's a worthy endeavor and I'm very proud to carry the torch for these films, and to give them a home and to have a great partner like KCET who is a highly respected and independent public television station that really commits itself to a wide range of award winning programming. It really does a great job in serving the community". When asked about other entities with whom Cohen Classic Films may collaborate with, Cohen confirmed, "Yes. We work with pretty much everybody that you could think of, of note. TCM for a number of years, from the very beginning".
One of the things that really drew my attention to this unique program is the eclectic lineup of films selected for presentation. It's stuff you really wouldn't otherwise see in a weekly anthology of classic cinema. Cohen said, "The core of the library is an acquisition I made in the last ten years, of seven hundred films, over five hundred features and two hundred shorts. So, [the lineup] was very curated". And the films are gonna look fantastic too with the help of the Bologna Institute restoring all of the films in the Cohen library, including all but one Buster Keaton film (The Cameraman belongs to Warner Bros.). The Keaton masterpiece, The General was the first to come under the care of Modern Video four years ago, and since then there has been a systematic approach to restoring every other title. The plan is to have all of the Cohen Film Classics restored within another two or three years. An impressive endeavor by anyone's standards.
When asked how he manages to pursue his passion for film and still remain active in Realestate and every other interest in his life, Cohen responded, "You have to find time to do all the things that you enjoy doing and the things you're passionate about. You find time to do the things you wanna do. Don't you do that?". Not like a billionaire I don't. But if I had access to a great deal of resources, I have to say, I'd probably do exactly what Charles S. Cohen is doing. But since I don't, I'll just have to tune into KCET for Cohen Film Classics and live vicariously through a man who knows how to express his passion for the movies.