29 August, 2006

Snakes in a Cinema

I used to go to an art-house cinema in Liverpool city centre. I'd been told it has once been a popular venue for fans of (ahem) 'skin-flicks', and I was never really sure if they'd changed the carpet since the hand-over because it always felt a bit crunchy. For about two years I went to see loads of French, Spanish and Italian films, became pretty familiar with the back catalogues of Daniel Auteil, Gerard Depardieu and Pedro Almodovar and saw loads of older classics (saw Taxi Driver more times than is probably healthy).

Now that I live in London, the equivalent is the NFT. Until very recently I'd only seen about two films there in ten years and almost never used my allocation of freebies that I get as a member of the BFI. But a friend and I have managed to catch a couple of really mixed films there recently and I'm hoping we can continue to frequent the place as it's very friendly, comfortable, and as the films we go to see tend to be a bit obscure there's always room for a good stretch. And my mate's good company too, and loves his films so that's another incentive.

I mention this because there's another art-house cinema near to where I live. The Ritzy in Brixton manages to straddle art-house and popular films so well that last night as I joined a massive queue, I was worried that they were going to sell out of tickets for Snakes on a Plane only to discover that a) there were plenty of available seats and b) everyone was queueing to see Volver, Pedro Almodovar's latest, which was being shown in Screen One.

Snakes on a Plane was on Screen Five.

Now, I want to see Volver too, but I was surprised that the screen wasn't more than half full and that Snakes was in such a tiny screen for a film only on release for a weekend. Okay, it's a dumb B-movie exploitation flick, but by GOD it's effective. Maybe it's the venue, but the audience seemed in just the right mood for it, shrieking in the right places, laughing out loud at the fate of one passenger and giving one line of dialogue an enthusiastic round of applause. I've only seen this kind of reaction at corporate premieres and American cinemas, so this really helped make the film even more enjoyable.

If I get the time, I'd like to see Volver there, but somehow I can't imagine Carmen Maura being quite as cool as Samuel L. Jackson. He's so cool, he can wear a beret and not make you think of Frank Spencer.

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