On Thursday, the Pedestrian Drive-In screened “Phantom Thread” as part of the Rochester Fringe Festival. The Pedestrian Drive-In was familiarly wistful, but instead of pulling into a dirt parking lot and adjusting the radio to the film’s station, headphones were provided for personalized audio, and the film itself absorbed viewers in haunting elegance.
The ride on the Orange Line from River Campus to the festival was peaceful considering the event attracts more than 78,000 attendees from all 50 states, according to the festival’s website. Thursday evening offered a beautiful climate for a Pedestrian Drive-In, and the Spiegel Garden on Gibbs street was lit up invitingly with an inflatable movie screen. Food trucks framed the square, and the event captured the sentimentality of an upscale end-of-summer backyard gathering, with twinkling lights strung high over visitors resting on picnic tables, patio couches, and bean bags strewn in the turf.
The stakes of the on-screen drama were heightened, and the complex relationship between principal characters Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis) and Alma (Vicky Krieps) bitingly disregarded any Hollywood notion of romance. The intricate bond between a cantankerous creative and a kind but coy muse was pushed into the foreground, and, like in his other films, director Paul Thomas Anderson bittersweetly illustrates a dynamic portrait of powerful human connection.
Watching any movie as a college student tints your perspective with that of the college experience, and somehow the twisted moments of “Phantom Thread” evoke emotions similar to the student condition. Vying for someone else’s attention and yearning to constantly be around them, helping them with their work to demonstrate your intellect and capabilities, learning to understand yourself in the presence and impact of others. These small, heart-fluttering commonalities struck a soft cord as Festival visitors milled around the garden and the heat lamps between couches were switched on.
Like the original Fringe Festival in Scotland, new acts are showcased during the rapidfire performances every September, and the creative excitement of the various shows fosters a eccentric atmosphere.
The captivating spirit of the Pedestrian Drive-In not only stemmed from the gentle ambiance of the festival itself, but also the vitality of the patrons. Guests of all ages wandering through open tents, live music playing on the sidewalk corner, the glowing lights of Kodak Hall across the street. In a way, the Pedestrian Drive-In at the Fringe Festival is a celebration of the final nights of summer, while we can still enjoy the chilled outdoor nights. Simultaneously, it’s also a celebration of the beginning of an autumn, with pumpkins and hay bales resting against the streetlamps. From the lens of a student, it’s a commemoration of the year to come, a sentimental suggestion of what we have yet to experience.