Saturday, 9 April 2011

Not even popcorn.

I've been meaning to go and catch a film at the National Film Theatre (NFT) for a few years. It is something of a Mecca for UK film enthusiasts (which I consider myself), so I must admit to being somewhat ashamed that, having lived in London on and off for 5 years and on the South Bank itself for a year and a half, before last night I had never gone.

I even booked tickets once, to watch Jules & Jim, but never made it to the screening.

However, this one I was not going to miss.

You see, my girlfriend is a teacher, and yesterday was the last day of term. She is a very good teacher, if you will allow me that, but has been suffering something of a crisis of confidence and conscience recently. So when I spotted that The Browning Version (Redgrave version) was screening on the evening that term breaks up, it was too serendipitous an opportunity to let slip.

We were both famished when we arrived a mere 20 minutes before the screening, and Jen was making noises about snacks, at which point I had to refer her to the Wittertainment Code of Conduct. So we went to a little cafe round the corner and threw a couple of sandwiches down our gullets. Jen suggested we take the sandwich into the screening, at which point I had to explain that it was not "the done thing", and that there was in fact no eating of any kind to be had at this screening.

"Not even popcorn?"

"Not even popcorn."

The screening began with a single trailer, for The Last Picture Show (a movie I have yet to watch all the way through), and we both marvelled at how young and beautiful Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd were. Presently the Rank Organisation gong hove into view, and we were treated to one of the favourite films of my youth in the company of many other film fans. The theatre was almost full.

The print had been lent by the National Film Archives, and was in fantastic condition. The projectionist did a great job of keeping the projection crisp throughout, too, although the sound rather gave away the reel changes.

So I sat and revelled in Terence Rattigan's glorious screenplay, enjoying the superb performances, laughing at the humour, choking back lumps at the requisite moments, and chuckling at the occasional anachronism.

The film itself is not the reason I am writing the evening up, though. It was the experience. Going to a cinema at which everyone sat and watched the whole movie through, no-one was munching on loud food, or chatting to their friends, or texting on their mobile. No adverts for local curry houses, or for bloated Hollywood tentpoles. It's the closest I'm come to feeling like the cinema was a genuine treat since I went to see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when I was 9.

I recommend more people go and catch runs of old movies. The ticket prices are the same as for a new movie, but the experience is so much richer.

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