If my travels on London Transport or National Rail are anything to go by, people seem increasingly content to watch films while squinting at tiny mobiles or hunched over tablet screens. Not only is this practice arguably bad for one’s eyesight but it doesn’t do the poor old film-as-an-art form any favours either. Not for nothing, after all, are they called Big Pictures.
Surely the best way to watch any film is on a large screen surrounded by an engaged audience – preferably with some kind of alcoholic beverage and savoury nibbles within easy reach. This is why Wayne Gooderham and myself have set up the Tufnell Park Film Club to show great films once a fortnight in the lovely function room above the Lord Palmerston pub on Dartmouth Hill Road.
Doing our best to abide by Billy Wilder’s commandment ‘Thou shalt not bore’ we will screen anything from a Hollywood classic, forgotten gem, cult favourite or a recent release that didn’t get the attention we think it deserved. The twist is that every film is somehow connected to the previous one screened – sort of like a perpetual double bill.
After each screening the audience votes between three films linked to the one they’ve just watched to decide what we show next time.
We kicked off this Never-Ending Season in August with Robert Altman’s hugely enjoyable Hollywood satire The Player. At the end of the screening the audience voted for one of three classics all referenced in The Player: Bicycle Thieves, Touch of Evil or Sunset Boulevard. Bicycle Thieves, the black-and-white Italian melodrama 1940s was the clear victor. The winner of the next vote was Paper Moon (a father-and-daughter relationship film replacing Bicycle Thieves’ father-and-son pairing). And the next film after Paper Moon will be The Grifters (beating other con-man movies The Color of Money and House of Games.)
It’s important to us that the film club feels like a club and that our members have some influence over the direction the programme takes. It’s not only great fun picking the next three related options but also seeing how much people like voting for the one they really want to see. We’re not trying to educate people about film history or assault them with so-called classics but Wayne and I have both found that our slumbering film-nerds-within have been awoken by curating the film club and hopefully members will feel the same from attending.
We’re one of a growing number of film clubs in the capital. We were initially inspired by visiting the successful Acton Film Club at The Rocket pub. Specifically in North London, First Friday at The Old Firestation in Holloway show a mixture of obscure stuff and more well-known critical faves on the first Friday of each month. Tight Shorts at Wenlock & Essex showcases short films by up-and-coming filmmakers on the last Tuesday of every month. There are also more recent mainstream movies every other Sunday at the Hanbury Arms in Islington.
Our next film on Tuesday 18 September at 8pm is Stephen Frears’ terrific neo-noir The Grifters starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening. Come along on Tuesday and you can also vote for which we film we show next. Anjelica Huston was Oscar nominated for her turn as John Cusack’s manipulative mum in The Grifters so we’re continuing the chain with the choice between three more ‘bad muthas’ for our screening on Tuesday 2 October. Your options will be Aussie crime drama Animal Kingdom (2010), Hitchcock classic Psycho (1960) and James Cagney gangster flick White Heat (1947). You can read more about each film and watch the trailers on our website.
Annual membership costs £10 – though your first film is free if you want to come along and see what’s what.
Find out more about Tufnell Park Film Club and sign up to our mailing list on our website www.tufnellparkfilmclub.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @tpfilmclub and find us on Facebook at facebook.com/tufnellparkfilmclub.
Written by Nigel Smith, @nigelcsmith