Southampton is fairly generously served with cinemas and screens, and further options exist a short way off in Winchester (and a new cinema is apparently being constructed). However, this apparent bounty does not extend to offering a particularly wide range of films. Basically, each of the cinemas – even the art house ones – just offer a subset of the films showing at the main multiplex. In the extreme case of the Picturehouse and Cineworld, doing so barely 100 yards from one another.
This contrasts with Cambridge, where the Arts Picturehouse offered a very wide range of films – though it did only make some of its more obscuring offerings available on a single occasion and at rather odd times. I think this is down to perceived (or perhaps even actual) supply and demand: the cinema managers of Wessex do not feel their audiences are up for any particularly challenging (or even just slightly quirky) fare. Given the number of copies of the Daily Heil one sees around, they may well be right – but it is a disappointment for the more eccentric denizens of these parts (which certainly includes me, though I’m reasonably sure I’m not entirely alone).
The only ray of light breaching these clouds of conformity are Discover Tuesdays (a terrible name in many ways, as I think few people are still surprised to find a day lurking between Monday and Wednesday) when we are allowed to see something more interesting: as long as we are willing to have an early tea and hit the cinema by 18:00 (the concept of having a late tea, some time after eight, is clearly a non-starter – unless you fancy gorging on wafer-thin chocolate-covered mints). Annoyingly, this time slot does tend to clash with desirable concerts at Turner Sims – events which I tend to book further ahead than trips to the flicks and so I’ve missed out on several films that I might otherwise have found stimulating.
This week, my visit to Turner Sims was on Thursday to see Schubert’s last three piano sonatas. This was worthwhile, if only for hearing the stunning way Christian Blackshaw played the second movement of D960 (for the avoidance of doubt, he played the rest very well too – but this movement really stood out). However, it did in turn mean missing out on a gig at the Art House Cafe which also looked like a lot of fun. Life is full of regrets – unless you are Edith Piaf or a UK wetland (oh no, sorry, that’s egrets).
As a result I did have the chance to Discover Tuesday (it was located as expected and still named after Tiw), but the film was unknown to me and I hemmed and hawed about it. Eventually, I decided to take a chance (blow my £8) and go – if nothing else, I felt I needed to encourage the Harbour Lights in its more adventurous programming (and if I won’t, who will?). I’m very glad I did as I really enjoyed The Best Beneath My Feet – in some ways, it is a British take on the US High School movie but being British has strayed quite some way from the source genre.
Whilst it is set in the present (I think) it has some of the feel of a period piece. This is partly because we see very few cars and our hero’s laptop and mobile phone are not the most recent, but mostly down to the school our hero attends. For the first time in ages, a school being shown on screen reminded me very strongly of my own experiences in the seventies and early eighties.. The classrooms and corridors were all very familiar – though the chemistry lab was a bit of a giveaway as to the more modern period: no ancient, heavy (and heavily scarred) wooden desks with built-in bunsen burners accessed by high wooden stools (I do feel that when it comes to chemistry, the youth of today are missing out).
Our hero himself is also slightly disconnected from the present, his school uniform and parka would have been (almost) entirely at home at my own school circa 1980 (a slightly different tie and the wrong badge on the blazer were the only clues that would have given him away to anything but a detailed uniform inspection). Perhaps because of this, he reminded me very strongly of the youthful me, though I think there were also strong visual similarities. He certainly had my terrible posture and a similar build and was even somewhat facially similar (though you should bear in mind I have not seen my teenage face in 30 years). I had (and still have) less musical ability but on the plus side don’t think I wore such awful glasses and was (a bit) less of a loner.
Another bonus was the sight of one-time, teen heart-throb Luke Perry, who is very slightly younger than me. I have no particular interest in him personally (and am unfamiliar with the rest of his oeuvre), but was very pleased to see that he is not wearing as well as I am. Now, I do appreciate he was playing a very dissipated character in the film, but I like to imagine that I can tell what was make-up and what was the ravages of time.
So, all-in-all, taking a chance played off handsomely. A fun film, an opportunity to wallow in nostalgia and to feel that I am ageing relatively well (not quite a £10 win in a beauty content, but at my age you take what you can get) – and all for less than a (small) round of drinks. Since this came only a couple of days after a similarly late and uncertain decision to see David Goo and The 150 Friends Club, I feel my spontaneous decision-making to see culture “because it’s there” is going rather well. As a result, I’m going to try two separate events organised by Pint of Science this coming week – one related to physics the other to biology, but both (I assume) related to beer – which are taking place in nearby pubs as part of some broader UK-wide pub-based science festival (whose existence I discovered from a flyer I spotted at Turner Sims on Thursday). If anything interesting happens (and quite possibly if it doesn’t) you will be the first to hear about it!