Hello! My name is Michael Pierce, co-founder of Cinema Nation – an initiative to bring people together through cinema. As one of the proud parents/shepherds of Scalarama this September, I automatically try steer clear of recommendations and favouring one event over another; every one of them really is a beautiful and unique snowflake. It’s up to everyone to plough through the listings to find their own discoveries… yes, even journalists. So perhaps this final week of August is my last chance to unleash my own personal highlights before the deluge of impartiality begins! Join me on a trip through cinema spaces, memories of film epiphanies and where my head is at before a month of global cinema adventure strikes…
28/08/2015 – 02:30 pm
The Plaza Super Cinema and Variety Theatre – Mersey Square, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1SP
Few cinematic experiences will come close to the full dazzlement of wonder that greeted my 8 year old eyes when I first saw Aladdin, which I got to experience at a super cinema, very much like the Stockport Plaza. I had won tickets to the film’s charity premiere at the Odeon in Leicester Square and without a doubt, my enjoyment of the film was locked into the overwhelming grandeur of the screen. To my young impressionable mind, it seemed like a religious ceremony, a neon version of church. Huge reliefs of naked dancers adorned the walls, the seats covered in tiger print whilst performers dressed as Disney characters high kicked across the stage. And instead of the church organ, a rainbow coloured wurlitzer suddenly rose from the stage. The chance to see the film in similar surroundings would be a highlight for me.
Now as an adult and rewatching the film again, although it still hits that sweet spot for me, mainly through Robin Williams‘ gregarious performance, I am disappointed by its crude portrayal of Arabic culture; the lyrics “where they’ll cut off your ear, if they don’t like your face” wisely exorcised from subsequent release of the film. So if you want to give Disney a steer, I’d recommend heading to the Plaza for the Organ Society’s double bill of silent classics: Buster Keaton’s The General and Laurel & Hardy’s Liberty on Sunday 30th August.
29/08/2015 – 08:30 pm
Blaise Castle Estate – Bristol, BS10 7QT
My childhood cinema trips were dominated by blockbusters and animated adventures, such was what was on offer at our local multiplex on the industrial estate. So it was down to VHS and video stores for me to fully explore new film realms, raiding HMV video sales as they began clearing stock in time for DVD to arrive. I would grab titles I knew I should watch, chancing my luck on slipping in an 18 rated film amongst the piles. The Princess Bride was one of those titles – originally put off by the girly name, I’d then heard from a friend that it was worth a watch, and I instantly fell in love with its quirkiness, bizarre characters, gorgeous leads, memorable one-liners and storyline structure… and it has Columbo in it!
One of the great things about doing Scalarama has been getting to know different film clubs across the UK and over the last few years, Bristol’s Bad Film Club has been going from strength to strength, always getting into the right spirit of celebrating the underside of cinema. Now on their new venture, Sunset Cinema, I can’t think of a more perfect setting than beside a lookalike fairytale castle. Pleased to see they are also investing in top quality projection and sound – which can sometimes be hit and miss at outdoor screenings. A great night, guaranteed – As you wish!
30/08/2015 – 02:00 pm
Cine Lumiere – 17 Queensberry Pl, London SW7 2DT
After my self-taught film school of classic films via the medium of VHS, I decided to take the leap and applied for a film studies course at university, along with a major in classics. With a regimented plan of two screenings a week, my boundaries were fully expanded and what I thought of cinema was shown to be just a small part of the wonders out there. We watched La Regle de Jeu quite early on in the school term, with a preface by my tutor about counting the number of shots in the film… suddenly you would just stop counting for minutes, with lengthy shots zipping between rooms and characters – this is the film that taught me about cinematography and editing, composing the class hierarchies through settings and placement of actors. It’s one of those films that you can’t quite comprehend that these are actors, so real do the performances feel. It’s also a film that makes you excited to see other work by the director. So I urge you to seek this film out. I had the pleasure of working with Nick from Rochester Kino last year on Scalarama, and so know his introduction will be thoughtful and illuminating, and the Cine Lumiere is a gem of a cinema.
25/08/2015 – 08:00 pm
Close-Up – 97 Sclater Street, London, E1 6HR
One thing I didn’t appreciate at the time was that most of the screenings at university were 35mm prints. It wasn’t until later that I started to really started to notice the difference between DVD screenings and 35mm in terms of quality. After leaving university, I worked at the BFI London Film Festival and I started to become more aware of formats, as the first headaches of transitioning to DCP began. Now, all films shown at the festival are from DCP. After the festival, I got a job as a projectionist at the Phoenix Cinema, and that’s when I fell in love with 35mm completely. I loved projecting it, taking the reel through the projector’s gate, learning it from heart, setting the ratio and focus, hearing it through the gate, checking prints, rewinding them and spooling them off by hand, learning about the history of the print through previous projectionists’ splicing and marks. So it’s so great to see two new cinemas in London showing dedication to 35mm – The Regent Steet Cinema (with the Badlands Collective showing ALL THAT JAZZ – great film – and ONE FROM THE HEART from archive prints) and Close-Up cinema, formerly just a rental store. I can’t wait to visit them on my next trip to London. 35mm is important, it’s real and it’s also sexy.
I’ve chosen THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG DISTANCE RUNNER – which I haven’t actually seen – but it’s a title that stays in my mind as I’m training for a marathon later in November. To see this on 35mm would be a real opportunity to witness REAL black and white. Chase after it!
27/08/2015 – 07:30 pm
Liverpool Small Cinema – 57-59 Victoria Street, Liverpool, L1 6DE
And here we are now… After the Phoenix, I worked for Curzon cinemas for a few years before going back to school to do an MA. Eventually, London started to move at a different frame rate to me, and I found the warm embrace of a new cinema – the Liverpool Small Cinema. So my last choice is perhaps biased, but it’s totally how I want to see films now. Although there are some amazing films being shown next week (THE THIRD MAN, SALT OF THE EARTH and THE WONDERS are all recommends!) I’ve chosen VIDEODROME as my last highlight as it’s the event I am definitely attending and hope you can join me. Chris who runs Cheap Thrills makes the screening more than just the film – a detailed introduction, plus trailers and short treats, like vintage ads, puts the film in context. VIDEODROME is also one of those films that I’ve started to watch several times but have been kept from completing… so this time… there’ll be no way to change the channel. Vive Cinema!
As part of the #DirectedbyWomen initiative in September, I’d encourage you to start early and seek out THE WONDERS by Alice Rohrwacher at Whirled Cinema , BURNING BUSH by Agnieszka Holland at Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge and A GIRL AT MY DOOR by July Jung at Cube Cinema, Bristol.
Michael is hard at work preparing Scalarama for September – for more info visit www.scalarama.com. For the monthly Cinema Nation radio show, tune in to Resonance 104.4fm on the last Monday of the month or catch up at www.cinemanation.co.uk
Enjoy writing about film? Would you like to choose your top 5 for the week ahead? Get in touch.