Film When I saw Stu’s request for submissions, I didn’t think I had anything to offer in response. The last film I went to see at the pictures was either The Cloud Atlas or Alpha Papa, both of which have been out for at least two years. In honesty, I’m not a desperately keen cinema-goer.
However, the memorable film viewing experience I would like to relate took place on 31st August this year, when Ruth (my wife) and I went to see a screening of Casablanca.
The reason I exempt this screening from my chronology of films I have seen at the cinema is that we didn’t, strictly speaking, see it at the cinema. The venue for our evening’s viewing was St Luke’s church (colloquially known as ‘the bombed-out church’) in Liverpool city centre. Having been struck during the Blitz, the church has for the past ten years been under the stewardship of Urban Strawberry Lunch and, latterly, that organisation’s Ambrose Reynolds.
One element of the programme of cultural events Ambrose and his colleagues have put on at St Luke’s is outdoor cinema. Given that for a couple of years I lived just up the hill from the church, it shames me to say that until this August I’d seen films there on just two occasions; once a blissful December evening four years ago when Ruth and I watched a crackly recording of Carols From King’s 1954, and once when I’d wandered in drunk after a trip to the pub and joined a crowd laughing at the ‘Drink? Pipe?’ scene from Bride of Frankenstein.
Luckily, my interactions with St Luke’s weren’t confined to these visits. Over the following years Ruth and I played some memorable shows there with our folk duo Moss & Jones (and an array of enchanting guest acts), and spent many a sunny afternoon there in the middle of a trip into town. Best of all, St Luke’s is where Ruth and I were married on 14th September 2014. The venue’s versatility allowed us to have the ceremony and reception in the same space and it was an unforgettable day.
So when we walked through the doors on the evening of Saturday 30th August, St Luke’s felt like a familiar, homely space; one with which I have a definite relationship.
I’d not seen Casablanca before. Strictly speaking that’s not entirely true; someone had forced me to watch it at a student party in that insufferable way people do at student parties, but I was so affronted at this unasked-for annexing of ninety minutes of my evening that I paid as little attention as possible and retained nothing about the film when it had finished. So I was coming to it pretty much fresh.
The main feature was preceded by some Tom & Jerry cartoons – I’m not old enough to remember when this was a feature of cinema-going but, being a Tom & Jerry fan, enjoyed them nonetheless. (All the moreso, given that they were the proper Fred Quimby ones.)
Casablanca is one of those cultural artefacts which, due to the number of times it has been referenced and parodied, I feel like I’ve already seen (as stated above, I HAD kind of already seen it, but not really); like Apocalypse Now, The Godfather and Gilligan’s Island. My thoughts as I watched were a jumble of:
1. So THAT’S who the weird-looking bloke is in those Bugs Bunny cartoons!
2. I didn’t know it had jokes in.
3. This is really good.
Basically, I was surprised. I’d expected to be bored by the film itself but entertained by spotting bits that had been referenced elsewhere. What I hadn’t expected was to just ENJOY watching it.
After the film had finished the audience milled about under the late summer night’s sky and Ruth and I felt sad. You see, the reason for the evening’s events had been that the council (which owns St Luke’s) was starting a programme of renovation works at the church the following day, with Ambrose and co. handing over the keys with no guarantee they’d get them back once the work is finished.
A tendering process is currently underway to determine into whose hands St Luke’s will be passed in the new year and there’s a very real possibility that the new custodians might not allow it to be open in the same way, if at all.
And so we stood in the venue where we got married, aware that we could be there for the last time. If so, it’s fitting that the end of our relationship with the building should come in conjunction with the screening of a film about endings, whose ending is in turn so well known.
Louis, I think this is the beginning
of a beautiful friendship.
The two walk off together into the night.
Marc is one half of the folk-inspired musical duo Moss & Jones.