Today is a no grand ambition blog, just some thoughts on movie going.
I spent this morning’s coffee break, really the extension of an unearned lie in disguised as “work” because I answered a few emails, reading Jonathan Romney’s Short Orders: Writings on Film. This collection of film reviews from 1993 to 1995 thrust me back into the time when film watching was my daytime pursuit. These were my early, wasted days, when standing on stage for 20 minutes a night was considered a full-time occupation. As my 20s ended, I realised this was not enough, and I should attempt a variety of commercial pursuits.
I was writing links for Channel 4 monstrosities, clip shows to fill the mighty swell of unrequired digital channels filled with non-required programmes, TV warm ups to fill the gaps when Vernon Kay was being powdered, and churning out endless pitches for possibilities that would be dashed on the rocks of commissioning editors’ lack of imagination (or so I thought at the time). By kayaking through these multitudes, I finally found out what I actually wanted to do some time in the middle of the first decade of this century. And so, my days of scrutinising the art-house came to an end, and most of my cinema visits now are to see animations about racing snails and fairy pirates.
Romney’s reviews covered those years were afternoons were spent at the Prince Charles cinema, which in 1993 was engulfed by “the new violence” – Man Bites Dog, Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant and other flicks that had the high moral tabloids foaming and wretched.
Cinema is a perfect way to socialise. You meet. A few pleasantries are shared, though you don’t have to work too hard on creating conversation as it is already framed by what you are about to watch. “You have one minutes and your subject is – films that have recently disappointed you and how many times Harvey Keitel is likely to weep while naked in 1994, your time starts now…”
Two hours of the socialising will then be in silence, apart from the occasional, “is that the guy who was in Dazed and Confused, hasn’t he aged”, or an occasional aside to question plot points that are disconcerting you. Once the film has finished, and you have sat through the entirety of the crowds, harrumphing loudly every time you have to stand up to let some less learned cinemagoer out, and thus missed the name of the Best Boy and who sang that song that you really recognised but just couldn’t put an artist to during the aftermath of the knife night…was it Wilco?
The following hour of socialising will entail a row over the merits of the film you have just seen and what it may or may not have meant. “But I think the brother knew it was suicide and that is why he didn’t kill her…” “no, no, the scene in the maze represented the lost moral compass of Mccarthyism” “how many vests do you think Vin Diesel owns?”
The horror of reading Romney was the horror of reminding myself that the 90s was not “recent”. I work with some people who were not born when these films were in production. The Lion King is 20 years old (and I still haven’t seen it). The uncertainty of youth seems to aid the dragging out of time, once your mind has ceased to physically develop, and the attrition may begin in your mid 20s, the afternoons get briefer and briefer, and each night has the hope that somehow you’ll fit more in the next day, then it’s Winter.
The frantic fuss over Natural Born Killers is as archaic as a fear of seaside Mods. (Brighton now has an exhibition celebrating mods and culture, yesterday’s moral outrage becomes today’s tourist attraction).
Reading Romney I can pinpoint when I gave up on blockbusters. It was watching batman Forever on Tottenham Court Road. I had presumed that all the dazzle would still be fun, even if it was empty, and left ready to reject the summer vacuum of the Beverly Hills film manufacturing contraption.
Which of these films can I return to now and still enjoy. Will my dadhead be able to stomach all the violence and kensington gore? Why did I go and see The Last Action Hero at the time? How long was The Quince Tree Sun? So tonight, what shall I revisit – The Neon Bible or Reservoir Dogs, Short Cuts or Clerks, Candyman or Orlando? Or maybe I should risk something new…
and on I tour until my 2015 break for other projects – Winchester, Hull, Glasgow, Leeds, Newcastle, York, also autumn dates are up now – from Croydon to the Isle of Wight – all details HERE
My very long 3 hour DVD that plays in a different order each time you put it on is HERE