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Sorry to see end of era for video store

M. Faust -- Mike, to friends and acquaintances -- is a friend of mine in the most rudimentary of ways, as people concerned for each other's welfare.

This is not the happiest of weeks for those who are friends of Mike's. That's because this is the week he decided to announce that he's going to close Mondo Video, his video store, in October after a tough 13 years.

He will, thank heaven, continue in the video business online in "a Web site specializing in obscure foreign movies," but he feels that he can no longer keep his store going on Main Street across from UB. He's been struggling at his new location ever since he moved there from Elmwood and Forest (where he got caught up in the uncertainty surrounding Hans Mobius' plan to sell his properties to hotel developers.)

Surely, this personal kind of store is a great, if vanishing, tradition like the independent local book store opened by someone who loves books (Helen Falconer and Susan Fox on Elmwood Avenue in days of yore, Talking Leaves now), the locally owned disc store begun by a music nut (see, among others, New World Records.)

But video is a newer business and a tougher one. Video stores all over in the DVD and Netflix era are folding. In an e-mail about it, Mike writes "the fact that you can buy DVD's just about everywhere you go -- the checkout lanes at Wegmans and Target and Rite Aid are filled with them -- puts people in a mind to buy and own, not to rent" (as used to be the case with expensive tapes).

It seems to me Mike Faust is irreplaceable in the Buffalo video/DVD business. Whenever someone asks me where to obtain -- or merely where to talk to someone sympathetic -- some obscure video or DVD, I always direct them to Mike and Mondo Video.

When I was told Leslie Fiedler needed a DVD of a movie he'd written about decades ago, I got it through Mike (and made sure Fiedler knew where it came from). When someone I knew mentioned how much she wanted to see again Robert Bresson's "Au Hasard Balthazar," Mike ordered it for me to give her with little trouble. He fills a crucial role in Buffalo's cultural landscape. It would be a community disaster for him to cease operations altogether.

I've been reading him since he was a movie critic at UB's Spectrum a quarter century ago (I did some writing for the Spectrum 16 years before that.) And I've been going to screenings with him -- and talking movies -- since he reviewing regularly in 1991.

He is, by any conceivable assay, a real "movie guy" -- not a poseur or a power-monger or a nasty, elbow-flinging pol who somehow got waylaid by movie criticism. Though some people I know find his knowledge and personal reserve forbidding, I know him simply as a man who, when he talks about movies he likes, lights up like a kid on Christmas morning.

He is exactly the sort of guy, therefore, who should have an independent video store in Buffalo.

"People think that they can get everything in the world from Netflix, while that isn't true [and you may have to wait for months for a particular movie]. Once you get used to getting DVD's in the mail I guess it's hard to motivate yourself to go out and rent them, especially when you'll have to remember to bring them back in a few days . . . Then there's digital cable, which means that there's always something on, even if it's not anything you care to watch." Worse, though, than location anxieties and changing technology and business models, is that Mike believes "people don't care about movies the way they used to. . . young people no longer seem to look at movies as a way to expand their horizons on the world."

He admits now "in all honesty, a large reason for opening Mondo was that it gave me an excuse to buy all the movies I ever wanted to watch myself [little did I know that I'd never actually have time to watch them]. That's what you get for making your hobby your business, I suppose." In a perfect world, it wouldn't be.


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