“Don’t try to understand it”

You seen Tenet yet? I have, though I think I’ll need to go a few more times to be able to tell you what it was all about.

Tenet review: ‘It feels like several blockbusters combined’BBC Culture
He has often said that he would like to direct a Bond movie, but he must have got tired of waiting for the producers to hire him, so he has gone ahead and made one of his own. From its opening action set piece, to its whistle-stop tour of international beauty spots, to its super-rich, heavily-accented bad guy with an army of expendable henchmen, Tenet follows the 007 formula to the letter – the only notable change being that the main role has been split in two, with Washington playing the tough, dedicated government agent, and Pattinson adding the English accent, the insouciant humour and the taste for alcohol.

Is seeing Tenet in cinemas worth the coronavirus risk?Wired UK
As in Nolan’s previous films, characters spend the beginning zooming busily from place to place, delineating the world’s underlying rules. And like his other films, this quickly spun pseudoscience drives the plot. I found both increasingly impenetrable, an impression Nolan seems to anticipate – one scientist, her lab coat underscoring her authority, makes bullets spring, grasshopper-like, backwards through time. “Don’t try to understand it, feel it,” she implores.

It was great to be back in the cinema, though.

The spectacle, then, is the point. Watching a Nolan movie on your laptop is like watching someone else ride a roller coaster; abstractly, you can see why it would be fun, nevertheless, it is not. This is a film best presented in 70mm, at the iMax, the biggest cinema in the UK (™), at a head popping scale of image and sound. And it was moving, just as Nolan described it in his editorial, to be back in the cinema, even this cold new cinema of masks, hand sanitiser and vacant seats. It is so central to social life. The film opens with a crowd attending the theatre – unintentionally its most poignant scene.

The end of cinema as we know it, and I feel fine

Following on from yesterday’s post about the precarious position of our independent cinemas and picture houses, here’s David Cronenberg’s views on the matter. He thinks cinema-going is on the decline, and he’s… not that bothered?

‘If movies disappeared overnight, I wouldn’t care’: David Cronenberg on the death of cinema
But the important distinction he wants to make is that filmmaking isn’t “dead” – it is just that cinema is no longer “the cathedral that you go to where you commune with many other people.”

Instead, you watch on your laptop, TV or handheld device. He suggests that watching a film on an iPad is closer to reading a novel than it is to the old cinema-going experience.

Pictures of the picture houses

Nice to see photos of one of our local cinemas* in the Guardian recently.

The Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds
The Hyde Park Picture House, the world’s only surviving gas-lit cinema, opened in 1914. The owners of the Grade II-listed building have now been granted planning permission for redevelopment, to improve accessibility, restore the gas lights and ornate plasterwork and incorporate a second screen in the basement.

They’ve now been given planning permission for their renovation, but the grant they got to fund it was awarded almost two years ago. Patience is a virtue, I guess.

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash
In its earliest years Hyde Park showed morale-boosting patriotic films including An Englishman’s Home, and newsreel of the war in which 6,000 local men had enlisted. The gas lights were turned down but kept on during the screenings, to combat reports of disgraceful carryings on in the back rows of darker cinemas.

pictures-of-picture-houses-2

Not all of these places are so lucky. Here are some of the saddest photos I’ve seen in a long time.

9 haunting abandoned cinemas & picture houses of England
In our modern world of multiplexes, it can be easy to forget the grand cinemas of yore. Not so long ago, ornate picture houses stretched over every corner of England. Each one offered something more than a simple screen. It offered a unique viewing experience, a perfect way to while away a rainy afternoon by settling into another world. Today, many of those old picture houses stand in ruins, their projectors shut off for the final time.

pictures-of-picture-houses-3

And it’s sad to see the one I grew up with is suffering the same fate.

* What others call a movie theater, we would call a cinema. A picture house sounds very grand (as is appropriate for Hyde Park), but when I was young, we’d refer to these places as the pictures. A singular noun, as in: “Is there owt good on at the pictures, or shall we go round to John’s and play on his Atari?”