What Makes A Perfect Al Fresco Movie?
It’s summer and rooftop/park/lido cinema is here, sometimes great, often not (depending on sound quality, the weather and the fee – Secret Cinema, this means you) but I’ve noticed something interesting. Certain films crop up again and again for outoor screens. This year the one that has made almost every list is ‘Whiplash’, the drumming-as-torture movie. It seems a really odd choice to have picked a claustrophobically dark character study for the expansiveness of outdoor viewing.
I’d have thought the obvious choice would be ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, where cyanic skies might match the view overhead. A few years ago I helped introduce ‘Alien’ along with John Hurt to a packed audience at Somerset House. It was a beautiful evening and a great film, so what went wrong?
First, you sit picnic-style on cobbles. Fidgetty. And it plays so slowly to a modern audience fixated on fast-delivery thrills. The couple in front of me were in their early twenties. They snogged, had a row, made up and snogged some more. The girl with them photographed her shoes and the ends of her hair and sent the pictures to her friends. They came for her and all of them went off to the bar, the toilet, and to visit others. By the time they came back we still hadn’t got that thing off John Hurt’s face.
The main reactions were boredom and laughter. They particularly laughed at the creature, but then of course they’d played the video game as children.
It’s was like me reading ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland’ at age seven and thinking Dracula and Frankenstein looked silly and boring (which I did and largely still do). I still prefer Bram Stoker’s eerie novel to any of them.
I’ve seen a lot of films in public places. Went to the last of the double-bill drive-ins in America, a West Indian open air cinema where we all sat on the floor, saw ‘Godzilla’ in Tokyo, watched ‘Casablanca’ projected on a bedsheet in the South China Seas (still don’t like the film), saw ‘Death Line’ in an abandoned underground tunnel (recently) – but the best was seeing ‘Some Like It Hot’ in a park with a laughing audience – it plays completely differently. And there was the re-issue of ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s – not a good film, especially the uncomfortable racial cameo from Mickey Rooney, but audience pleasure of the film was palpable every time Audrey Hepburn appeared.
Headset provision feels like a good route to more involvement – or show a few classics; they survive for a reason. Even though I realise the majority of cinemagoers have never seen a black and white film! (True fact.)