Books Having missed his personal appearances, I was quite pleased to find this half-priced signed copy of Mark Kermode’s The Good, The Bad and the Multiplex in Waterstones on Bold Street just after Christmas. It’s a surprising squiggle, not least because he merges his initials together then runs his pen on hoping the reach a D and seemed like a perfectly reasonable alternative to having his face looking out at you for a week. Plus since my primary typing finger’s been out of action thanks to a papercut, such a tiny injury, so strangely debilitating, it was a nice way to note what had become again my primary way of storing information that wasn’t my brain.
Taking a break from the Oxfords, I spent last week reading through this and his earlier semi-autobiography It’s Only A Movie. They run perfectly into one another. The first offers a ramshackle account of his life and career from sneaking into horror films to working at City Life Magazine in Manchester, Time Out London, the Radio and thence famously being shot at in LA while interviewing Werner Herzog. The second offers a ramshackle account of his frustrations with modern cinema, the multiplex experience, 3D, the British coming even though they’re already here andthe film criticism discipline in general.
For someone’s who’s an avid listener of these radio slots and video blog there aren’t many surprises since his reviewing style already demands a fair amount of biography submerged with opinion and even as he apparently extemporises into film criticism whole sections feel like transcripts of his greatest hits, especially the section on Sex and the City 2 or Transformers. This is the Kermodian version of comedy books released before dvd, where Jasper Carrot or Woody Allen’s sets would be repeated in prose, albeit with a far more discursive style that meanders from the point like a Ronnie Corbett monologue and just as funny.
Nevertheless, the tone of the second book is almost entirely pessimistic. Kermode fears that the advent of digital projectors, the way films are delivered, is irrecoverably spoiling those elements which brought him to the medium in the first place, the sense of history inherent within a piece of celluloid, that it has a transportative capacity irretrievably obscured as the screens its presented on become ever smaller. As he’s said in the past, it used to be that films as they were run through the projector were effectively performed to the audience or viewer and there was a collective excitement akin to theatre or music which can’t be replicated on television.
Having spent the best part of a couple of years watching films on television, usually alone, my worship of the medium has shifted from being an experience akin to a church service to something more like private prayer. The screen is smaller, true, but there are other benefits. The seats are comfier. You can pause the film if you need the loo, follow your own schedule and there are fewer random distractions. Also even with a Lovefilm account it’s far, far, cheaper and selection of films huge. But I know that just as I’ve killed the high street through internet shopping, if I’m not careful I’ll kill the cinema too. Perhaps I need to expand my displays of devotion again.