COVID-19 radically changed our way of living for the foreseeable future. One of the hardest hit industry was that of theatres, which have seen their doors close from one day to the next. As we mourn this temporary loss, while consciously pondering on the lasting impact of this horrific pandemic, we long for a safe return to the cinema by remembering our last time at the movies.
Color Out of Space (2019)
The morning after the FilmSoc Spring Ball, I got up with my four hours of sleep, heaved my way through Jesmond and sat down in Tyneside Cinema to watch A Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019). The screening was nearly empty and, as excellent as Portrait was, the soft lighting and colour palette did very little to enliven my exhausted spirits. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience and a film I’d recommend to everybody.
This was almost my last cinema experience before lockdown.
What I actually saw just before the lockdown was Color out of Space. An adaptation of the H.P. Lovecraft short story The Colour out of Space directed and co-written by Richard Stanley, this cosmic horror science-fiction film stars Nicholas Cage as farmer Nathan Gardener. Naturally, a cosmic substance falls onto the farm and begins to reshape their psyches and dimensional existence.
I don’t think I need to tell you how strange this film is. Horror is always great to watch with friends and we took up at least a whole role. Turning to the person beside you at every jump-scare or having a little laugh at the special effects, there’s something oddly communal about the genre and Color out of Space’s warped strangeness only accentuated the feeling.
Space isn’t necessarily a bad film. For the most part, it’s pretty well-made and I could imagine critics throwing some forgiving terms of endearment round, such as “ambitious” or “experimental.” And I would be willing to accept this sort of terminology because Lovecraft isn’t exactly the easiest thing to adapt, though John Carpenter is renowned for successfully channelling Lovecraft’s essence in 1982’s The Thing.
In the grander schemes of things, whether or not Color out of Space was a good film doesn’t matter. It will inevitably serve as a reminder of the little things in life that are so easily taken for granted. So there you go Richard Stanley, this is your legacy to me.
Lockdown life has sadly become the norm and many of the usual things we love to do are on hiatus for the foreseeable future, including the cinema. Going cold turkey from the cinema hasn’t been fun for anyone so for many we have to find solace in memories of times past and our experience in the cinema (and an unhealthy number of Netflix Parties). So, its always nice to think about your last time in the cinema and times before we knew how bad 2020 was going to be.
I’d like to say my last experience in the cinema was a good one, not just because of the film I watched. The film we went to see was Color out of Space starring Nick Cageon the 11th of March (thank you Letterboxd for remembering the date), we saw it at the beloved Tyneside Cinema. It’s a very trippy and surreal film, to put it mildly, much like the world at the moment. Despite its weirdness I actually really enjoyed watching it and I never realised how much I needed Nick Cage in a film based on a Lovecraft story. But it wasn’t the film that made me so fond of this experience and grateful that is was my last one, it was where I was and who I was with that made it so great.
Being in a cinema that I love, Tyneside, and with a massive group of friends (probably the largest I’ve ever actually been to see a film with) was such a fun experience and helped me realise how good my first year at university has been up to that point. I have spent most of my time with Film Soc this year so I couldn’t have thought of a better cinema experience than with those I met during that time. I just hope we can get back to doing that sooner rather than later.
The Invisible Man (2020)
The last film I saw in the cinema before quarantine was The Invisible Man, and it was the weekend before we were all sent into a total lockdown, so that was fun. To be honest, nothing had massively changed about the cinema except my rising anxiety levels, so I’m quite happy that my last cinema memory was a positive one. Oh, and the film was pretty decent.
Whilst the cinema itself had no measures in pre-lockdown, we did choose seats away from other people to the side of the screening, which I’m probably quite thankful for now. Any mild cough in the screening was sending me into a mild meltdown, but thankfully I think it was just people choking on dry popcorn and bits stuck in their teeth. I’m not thankful they were choking a bit, but thankful for my sake.
The film itself was pretty good and I managed to wriggle my mum into seeing a horror film with me, when she absolutely hates horror and will generally hide behind a cushion. However, she liked it as well, and wasn’t super freaked out. So if you’re looking for a horror to watch in lockdown, The Invisible Man was pretty good. The storyline is a bit weird, but Elizabeth Moss was excellent. God, I miss the cinema.
The last time I went to the theatre, I went to see The Invisible Man.
The film, ironically enough, threads on the topics of social isolation caused by an invisible enemy. As the abusive relationship with a psychotic billionaire slowly destroys every bit of good in her life, she is left alone, facing this monster.
I have admired Elisabeth Moss since Mad Men, but this film is a turning point. She leads this thriller with energy, without ever losing herself in the action of the story. The film works because of her. While the story and direction are commendable, without a stellar performance at the centre of it, this movie would be in danger of looking extremely dumb. Elisabeth Moss is one of the few that makes fighting with yourself look extremely convincing. Her expressions, her movements are filled with terror, and never for one second does the viewer doubt the presence of an adversary.
Since the opening scene, I knew this movie was going to be good. Not only because I will endlessly trust Moss’ talent until the Sun burns out, but because of the dynamic the director chose to focus on. It was not on how the man became invisible: rather, it portrayed the relationship between the two leads, presenting the abuse as the focal point of the story. The best movies never focus on the plot: rather, they’re about how the dynamics between characters change due to the plot. In this case, the human implications of the powers. We learn about him through her behaviour: an exemplary instance of ‘show, don’t tell’.
Everyone has always known that invisibility was a problematic superpower: Translucent from The Boys provides a textbook example as to why. This film takes it to another level, exploring the concept while remaining grounded in horrifyingly realistic relationships.
Never could I have imagined that would be my last time at the cinema in months. But looking back, it was the perfect send-off. Thrilling enough to deserve an audience, but not so empty as to feel like a rollercoaster.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)
As I start to write about the film in regards to the hypnotising appeal of a cinematic experience, the innumerable incoherent thoughts racing in my mind in and of itself define my intent. The thing about watching a film in a theatre is that it is an experience akin to a ritual, where inside a dark room with our fixated attention, we enter a hypnotic state consciously. Portrait of Lady on Fire, with its mesmerizing cinematography, elegant editing, naturalistic mise-en-scéne and deeply moving musical choice seems to transcends the notion of cinema, caged in a screen. During the watching experience, it’s almost as if the reality of the film and the audience converges into one, bringing an age-old fictional love story to life in front of our eyes. Furthermore, the film text is not just a story about love but a story of two women, deeply in love, facing each other. The vulnerable and intense performances of Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenel allows the viewers to not only ‘gaze’ at the spectacle of their love but step in and, become a part of it. The maternal essence of the film is not limited to the way it expresses itself, but also in the way it allows itself to be experienced and, consumed.
All Images Credit: IMDB
Last modified: 4th June 2020