Sunday, February 01, 2009

Going to the Pictures

I remember when cinemas had signs outside saying 'No Babes in Arms'. I'm sure my parents ignored them because it seems I saw every war film, every western, weepy and musical in the late forties and fifties. No wonder I took to Film Studies so readily, when it was invented.

In those days, cinemas had only one auditorium but the programmes changed twice a week. There were two neighbourhood picture palaces and my parents took me on Tuesdays and Fridays. I went again on Saturdays with my sisters for the childrens' matinee. This was in pre-TV days.

R's father was actually in the film industry - in the distribution arm. That's to say he put together the elaborate cardboard foyer displays, and changed the 'stills in the glass cabinets outside. The mention of his father's name at the Camberwell Odeon was an open sesame for R to get in free.

Some of my friends will pay to watch the odd costume drama or literary adaptation, if there's not too much sex or violence. R, like me, just likes sitting in the warm darkess for a couple of hours. It's a kind of addiction, or folie a deux, without too many dangerous side-effects. Even the financial burden is softened by our Unlimited Cineworld tickets.

In my case, it's the mix as before, because we take it in turns to pick the films and our tastes are very different. With ten-screen venues, there's a lot of room for horse-trading and a lot of hammering out the merits, or even the meanings, afterwards.

Just recently the films have been top-notch. I've had a surfeit of Kate Winslet, though, and I couldn't understand most of 'Valkyrie'. What can you do when all the characters are in the same uniform with identical haircuts and set-in-cement expressions, so their superiors won't guess they're out to blow up Hitler ? Still, it was good to learn that there was a lot of opposition in the ranks, which I hadn't known about before.
The film I enjoyed most was 'Slumdog Millionaire' because everything about it was excellent. 'The Reader' was the most controversial and I think Kate Winslet deserves an Oscar for that one, not 'Revolutionary Road'. I thought Sean Penn as Harvey Milk was wonderful, but then so was Mickey Rourke in 'The Wrestler'.

Sometimes, when we've been several days on the trot, I say something like 'Mmm, maybe we need time to process these films, you know. Like sleep helps you process what you've been through during the day.'

He looks at me as if I'm crazy, and I know he's right. We're hopelessly addicted.

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