Film Irrespective of Richard Linklater's achievements, Before Sunset is a reminder of how films have forced a dedication in me which I should probably usefully apply to other things. Glancing through the review posted when the film was released, I'm reminded that because the film didn't turn up straight away at FACT in Liverpool, I travelled out to the Cornerhouse in Manchester after work, nearly an hour by train there back again (this was when I was at Liverpool Direct storing up the money to go to university, or not depending on whether my application was accepted) (oddly enough moving to Paris was plan-B and at this point I'm not sure that wouldn't have been the better option) (but I digress). This wasn't an unusual trip. Years before I'd done the same with a friend for a screening of Singing in the Rain (and Hamlet even earlier) and would later kill myself to get to a screening of the first episode of Torchwood (not literally clearly though given what happened with the rest of that series it might have been preferable too).
With Netflix and rentals-by-post and the price of tickets, would I do this again now? Probably. I saw the sequel, Before Midnight, in the same screen at the same cinema in the same seat nine years later at the end of a day spent shopping in Manchester though it's fair to say I probably went to city on that week, on that day because Before Midnight was playing. That would also describe my approach to Cedric Klapisch's Chinese Puzzle. What Netflix lacks and by-post only just manage to retain are the sense of anticipation and the ritualistic aspect of going to the cinema, of buying a ticket, hoping your favourite seat is free and if you're me going to the toilet three time before the film starts because I've drunk too much coffee again. Oh and reading the cinema's brochure advertising upcoming attractions which in the case of the Cornerhouse is often films which I know I won't be watching for another six months while I wait for them to turn up on dvd or streaming (creating a different kind of anticipation).
But much of the trip has to do with the Cornerhouse itself. As you'll read in the coming weeks, the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds was for a time my cavern of dreams. After that the 051 in Liverpool. Then FACT. But the Cornerhouse is the Cornerhouse. It's my favourite cinema. For me, it is cinema. Partly it's because living in a different city I can't take it for granted so it'll always be special. Partly it's because in earlier years with its cushioned fabricy blue seats, basement screens of various sizes and box office across the street from its largest venue it didn't seem like any cinema I'd ever visited. The smell. Plus back in the day before the internet, those brochures always seemed filled with films which I'd never heard and would never see. Even now, the Cornerhouse is the place I go when I want to see films which are important or feel like they're going to be important to me. The idea of getting on a train just to see a film at the Cornerhouse has never seemed ludicrous because they experience of seeing a film there will be unlike seeing a film anywhere else.
Soon it'll be gone of course, replaced by a much larger, and to be fair, probably better designed venue up the road. Presumptuously called "Home" it'll be interesting to see if it retains the mystique. There'll be more screens, so a greater selection of films (one of the joys of the Cornerhouse was the limited selection at odd screening times which meant that sometimes I'd stumble upon a film I wasn't expecting because it's all that happened to be on when I happened to be in Manchester). Plus a theatre. Plus a cafe. Plus the gallery space. It sounds like it could still be like no other cinema, bar FACT or the BFI, I've ever visited. But it'll also be nothing like the Cornerhouse because initially it'll be without the memories which can only be gained by visiting a building repeatedly. That place may well be called "Home" but the Cornerhouse at the moment has a better claim to the description. The last film I saw there, quite deliberately, was Chinese Puzzle but if it had been another installment in the life of Celine and Jesse that would have been just right too.