Archives for posts with tag: cinema-going


Looking back over these lists of films I’ve watched this year, the context in which I watched them is as often memorable as – if not more so than –  details from the films themselves. This was something that my former colleague Annette Kuhn found in her research into cinema-going in Britain in the 1930s; people she interviewed often remembered the circumstances in which they went to watch films more vividly than the films themselves, which were often a backdrop to or pretext for social encounters.  Kinshasa Symphony and Paa Joe and the Lion were both screened at the Afrika Eye North festival I helped organise at Lancaster University where I had the chance to participate in fascinating Q-and-A sessions afterwards. In June, I saw an immaculate 70mm print of Playtime at Amsterdam’s Eye Filmmuseum with my friend Brian Baker, after a day spent cycling around the city having spoken at the annual NECS conference earlier that week. I saw the only known 35mm print of the obscure 1980s thriller Enemy Territory in the community-owned Royal cinema in Toronto’s little Italy area, presented as the fortnightly choice of the Laser Blast cult film society, while Wan Pipel was screened at the Powerplant arts centre on the shore of Lake Ontario. I watched Atomic Blonde on the flight back to Manchester although, because this was the budget airline, Air Canada Rouge, and the planes had no screens, I had to watch it through the aircraft’s glitchy wifi system on my phone. More memorable still, I was fortunate enough to see Haifaa Al-Mansour’s recent, moving feminist biopic, Mary Shelley in the eccentric Cinema Utopia in Avignon with my teenage daughter – the auditorium had a well in one corner – and a week later, I watched the remarkable Disobedience in La Ciotat, in the oldest cinema in the world, the Eden theatre in La Ciotat.


La Ciotat was the summer retreat of Auguste and Louis Lumiere and one of the cineaste’s treats of the trip was arriving in La Ciotat station on the platform where the Lumiere brothers shot their most well-known film, the film that Christian Metz suggested was cinema’s primal scene.


‘L’arrivee d’un train en gare de la Ciotat’, August, 2018.


‘L’arrivee d’un train en gare de la Ciotat’ (Lumiere, 1896)

Withnail and I is a film I’ve seen a number of times since first watching it in the wonderful Hyde Park Picture Place in Leeds when I was studying fine art at the university there. Although it’s set in London in 1969, at the time it seemed like an extraordinarily accurate account of the squalor of student life in a northern post-industrial city in the late 1980s, several years before Tony Blair’s New Labour government set about replacing student grants with loans, taking the first regrettable, culturally devastating steps towards privatising higher education in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The film has become a family favourite and we even paid a snowy visit one freezing winter to the location outside Shap where they shot most of the film, breaking into the boarded-up farmhouse and taking pictures like many other cinephile pilgrims had done before us; the building was like a shrine to the film, covered with graffitied lines from the film and memorabilia left by visitors. Touchingly, our son wanted to watch the film with us the evening before I drove him down to London to begin studying on a two-year MA course at UCL, since it was a film we’d watched together a number of times, although watching it in this context this nostalgic film about landscape and driving, intimacy, departure, and loss took on a different complexion.


2/7/18 – Trouble Every Day (Denis, 2003)

6/7/18 – Kinshasa Symphony (Wischmann, Baer, 2010)

7/7/18 – Paa Joe and the Lion (Wigley, 2016)

9/7/18 – Wind River (Sheridan, 2017)

10/7/18 – Histoire(s) du Cinema, 1b) Une histoire seule (Godard, 1998)

13/7/18 – Cairo Station (Bab el Hadid) (Chahine, 1958)

Plein Soleil (Clement, 1960)

15/7/18 – Transformers: The Last Knight (Bay, 2017)

18/7/18 – Enemy Territory (Manoogian, 1987)

19/7/18 – Wan Pipel (de La Parra, 1976)

20/7/18 – Atomic Blonde (Leitch, 2017)

Convict 13 (Cline, Keaton, 1920)

22/7/18 – Busy Bodies (French, 1933), Helpmates (Parrott, 1932), Our Wife (Horne, 1931)

24/7/18 – Un Flic (Melville, 1972)

25/7/18 – Mission: Impossible – Fallout (McQuarrie, 2018)

30/7/18 – Diary of a Lost Girl (Pabst, 1929)

5/8/18 – The Night of the Hunter (Laughton, 1955)

9/8/18 – Outrage Coda (Kitano, 2017)

10/8/18 – Mary Shelley (al-Mansour, 2018)

18/8/18 – How it Ends (Rosenthal, 2018)

19/8/18 – Boy (Waititi, 2010)

Disobedience (Lelio, 2017)

20/8/18 – Le Cercle Rouge (Melville, 1970)

23/8/18 – Sanshiro Sugata (Kurosawa, 1943)

27/8/18 – Knightriders (Romero, 1981)

28/8/18 – Sorcerer (Friedkin, 1977)

29/8/18 – It comes at night (Shults, 2017)

2/9/18 – The Meg (Turteltaub, 2018)

5/9/18 – You Were Never Really Here (Ramsay, 2017)

9/9/18 – Sanshiro Sugata, part 2 (Kurosawa, 1945)

14/9/18 – Withnail and I (Robinson, 1987)

17/9/18 – Histoire(s) du cinema 2a) Seul Le cinema, 2b) Fatale Beaute (Godard, 1998)

18/9/18 – Cold War (Pawlikowski, 2018)

20/9/18 – Surviving Desire (Hartley, 1991)

23/9/18 – Histoire(s) du cinema 3a) La monnaie de l’absolue, 3b) Une vague nouvelle (Godard, 1998)

27/9/18 – Histoire(s) du Cinema 4a) Controle de l’Univers (Godard, 1998)

28/9/18 – Histoire(s) du Cinema, 4b) Les Signes parmi Nous (Godard, 1998)

29/9/18 – Days of Youth (Ozu, 1929)

‘I graduated, but…’ (Ozu, 1929) – fragment

30/9/18 – Where now are the Dreams of Youth? (Ozu, 1932)

Blackkklansman (Lee, 2018)


Everyday pleasures: cinema-going

Bruce Bennett


As the term ‘cinema-going’ suggests, one of the historical pleasures of watching films has been visiting the structures in which they are screened. In An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory, Annette Kuhn’s study of people’s memories of cinema-going in the 1930s, she found that for many of the people she interviewed, the cinemas themselves, the groups of friends they went with, or particular occasions on which they went to the pictures were at least as strong a memory as the actual films they saw. Cinema-going is, however, a vanishing pleasure since most of the films and audio-visual material we watch is viewed at home on TV screens and computer monitors, while the experience of watching a film at a multiplex is so expensive and alienating it can feel like undergoing a polite mugging. This is captured nicely in the episode of the sitcom Black Books when the protagonist, Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) pays a rare and reluctant visit to the local multiplex cinema after being locked out of his bookshop:

BB: ‘Excuse me. There seems to be some sort of mistake. I bought a drink and some popcorn and now I have no money left.’

Cashier: ‘That’s how much it costs.’

BB: ‘Why? Is it special popcorn? Does it produce some kind of dizzying high?’


By contrast, the community cinema on Waiheke Island is a rare exception of a cinema that it is a pleasure to visit. It is in the basement of the community art gallery in the island’s main town of Oneroa and was staffed by volunteers on the occasions I visited. It screens first-run commercial films as well as ‘arthouse’ films and local productions, and has a good surround sound system and digital projector, however watching a film there felt like going to a cinema in another period. It was recommended to us by a volunteer who worked at the local recycling centre who said it reminded her husband of watching films in barracks rooms when he was in the army. The room is decorated with film posters, reels of film, miscellaneous bits of projection equipment and an old 35mm projector, while the ceiling is dotted with stars and crescents. One of the most pleasurable aspects of it is that in place of rows of cinema seats, the room is filled with a varied collection of sofas.



It seemed appropriate to watch the new Peter Jackson film, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in New Zealand for various reasons, but while I would like to have watched it in 3D and HFR, Waiheke community cinema seemed like the most suitable venue.



Annette Kuhn (2002). An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory, London: IB Tauris.

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