Thursday, 7 January 2010

A tale of two cinemas

From time to time myself and the Accidental Ally (a great chum who keeps me sane in the office) pootle down from work to Mayfair to go to the finest cinema in London. The Curzon is tucked quietly away amid white pillars and shiny black railings, easily missed amid the expensive offices and pubs full of Saville Row suits. Inside its unassuming facade there are no greasy popcorn machines or pick 'n' mix shelves, merely a dark, shiny bar and polite, well-spoken ushers. The films the single screen shows are not special effects blockbusters but intelligent dramas and documentaries. We adored the fabulousness of "The September Issue". We were impressed by the entire cast of "An Education", including an ex-drama school chum of the Ally. Something about being able to luxuriate in sufficient legroom with a glass of wine rather than a plastic bucket of sticky coke in this cosy, dark cave makes the cinema experience here more pleasurable than in any other screening facility in the city.
The Curzon cinema in Mayfair (image courtesy: Curzon)
This evening however we made an unwise decision. We had decided we would ignore the diabolical reviews and go and see Nine; a film adapted from a musical, in turn adapted from a Fellini opera. Somewhere along the adaptational line, I fear, the plot had alas been lost. I could not for the life of me tell you what the film was actually about; even why it was called "Nine". Numerous (although not nine) ladies danced and sang, Daniel Day-Lewis looked tortured and showed a staggering lack of taste in women. Worse still the discerning Curzon Mayfair had swiftly decided this for itself and declined to screen the film. We therefore had to abandon our traditional cinematic haunt, and head instead to the Camden branch of a well-known international chain.

When we arrived the cinema was spookily empty, filled only with the pervading smell of popcorn grease. Indeed by the time we had picked and mixed (somewhat elderly though the chewy sweets seemed; "I've found a fried egg from the time of Henry VIII" the Ally exclaimed loudly in front of cinema staff), and taken a flight of stairs to what felt like the attic, there were scant fellow-viewers who'd joined us. Thirty minutes of tedious adverts (which the Curzon Mayfair keeps to a scant ten at maximum) and an odd crowd had assembled, including six young men who looked as if they'd have been more at home in front of a bloody shot 'em up. "Oh look, rudeboys!" said the Ally excitedly. They proceeded to sit in front of us, blocking our view of the small screen with their beanie hats. We moved. Twice. The rudeboys called each other on their mobiles and laughed loudly. The film started, and so did they, narrating the story (that which existed), cheering at a flash of inner thigh, telling a depressed Daniel Day-Lewis it would all be ok; "Aww, s'awright bruv! Look e's cryin', innit.".

Twenty minutes in we realised our total mistake. We had no idea who was who, or what was happening (even the narration service wasn't helping). "You didn't tell me it was practically porn!" chastised the Ally, who by her own admission is rather a hole-in-a-sheet kind of girl about graphic cellular writhings. A further hour on and many of our fellow watchers could take it no longer. One couple got up and left. Another swiftly followed. Thoughtful ushers even turned the lights on to allow leavers to see where they were going. The Ally collapsed in hysterical giggles, and began to sing along with every song, making each tune up as she went along. I shrank further down into my seat, and redressed with the many layers of clothing I had worn on the way over, in order to make a speedy exit.

When the final credits rolled, to numerous sighs of relief from the audience, we bolted from our seats and fled into the icy night. "Never again!" we vowed - no more terrible big-budget glitzy films in horrendous cinemas. Back to the Curzon Mayfair from now on, where the plot-lines are cleverly crafted and the Sauvingnon Blanc is perfectly chilled. Nary a gangster in sight, and where the writhing, if any, is kept to a strict Catholic minimum.


  1. Great storytelling, nice comic edge, good sense of place. I like the way, in this and earlier posts, you take your time to tell your story. So I will keep coming to see what you're up to.

  2. I enjoyed "Nine" as a trailer more than the movie. Great story though (yours). I will use that "Henry VIII" line this week, somehow.

  3. Great story!
    We only have multi screen megaplex cinemas around here.
    The old single cinema that "gave a damn" seems to be a thing of the past.

  4. The Accidental Ally will be thrilled her one-liners are being passed on! Who'd have thought that a simple trip to the cinema could be so entertaining/provide so much to tell a story about...what's more, entirely uninspired by the film itself.

  5. Try the Prince Charles cinema just off Leicester Square, its really wonderful. Shows more indie films and has no Odeon-esque tackyness :)


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