Thursday, April 29, 2004

Better the devil you know

On Tuesday night I went to an early evening showing of Rosemary’s Baby at the Prince Charles Cinema, just off Leicester Square. It’s an undisputable fact (because I say so) that the Prince Charles is London’s best cinema. When most of the screens around the centre of London are charging over a tenner for a movie (which, in the case of over-sized TV screens like the Odeon Mezzanine, is a fucking crime), the Prince Charles has a varied programme of ever-changing features for, at the most, four quid.

The print they had sourced for the film was diabolical (pun intended). Crackling and popping throughout, dialogue and movement jumping all over the place, and at one point the film must have jumped straight off the reels as it flickered and disappeared completely for five minutes. It’s almost like they were trying to live up to Quentin Tarantino’s description of the place as an old-school grindhouse.

Where most of London’s picture palaces now have superb sound, pictures and auditoriums, the Prince Charles is stubbornly old-fashioned, and all the more loveable for it. Sticky floors, uncomfortable seats and a bizarre auditorium that seems to dip in the centre. If you end up sitting towards the back, you can actually find yourself looking up at the back of someone’s head.

Weird crowd in that night, too. It felt as though the whole audience had plastic bags in their laps that they insisted on crushing repeatedly throughout the film. There were at least two ongoing conversations non-stop in my immediate vicinity for the duration of the entire movie, and around four separate mobile phones went off as well, despite the on-screen plea before the movie started that phones must be turned off, as the cinema has “state-of-the-art sound”. Hah! But that’s what you get for going to the cheapest cinema in London.

Anyway, a very small price to pay for a movie-going experience that really is an experience.

Rosemary’s Baby was part of a day of Roman Polanski movies, and I’d never seen it before. I didn’t actually find it remotely scary at the time (The Ninth Gate scared me far more), but it’s really stuck with me for the last day or two, and it’s getting more and more retroactively creepy and disturbing the more I think about it.

The pop cultural significance and context of the movie is intriguing too. Frank Sinatra served Mia Farrow with divorce papers during the making of the film and, not long after, Polanski’s wife, Sharon Tate, and unborn child were horrifically slaughtered by Charles Manson and his gang of happy psychos. By the way, never, ever do a Google Image search for “Sharon Tate”. There are some really sick fucks out there. You have been warned.

No comments: