Experiencing #theartist

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Months ago on a visit to Paris I was doing my usual post-arrival trawl of films on release to plan my evening cinema visits and spotted an odd looking one called The Artist. I thought it sounded interesting and a bit different, but there were a few films calling out for viewing and The Artist didn’t make it to my short list on that visit.

I think too I was vaguely put off by the mention of early Hollywood and early talkies. A well worn topic, though of course that’s not a reason not to see something. As all artists know, it’s not having an original idea that matters so much as having a fresh and original manner of execution.

As the months went by, and the film became ever more hyped, I became increasingly reluctant to see it, in the slightly silly counter-culture way I have of becoming more cynical the more popular something becomes.

And so I never did get to see the film at the point most of the world was catching it, and might have ended up missing it altogether, or even worse (I now realise) viewing it on DVD had it not been for a friend suggesting at the last minute last night going to see it at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.

How fortuitous. And serendipitous. And appropriate. For nowhere I might have seen it in Paris or anywhere else in Leeds could have possibly provided me with the Hyde Park Picture House screening experience. For the Picture House was purpose-built as a cinema in 1914.

I have happy memories of taking the children when they were small to matinees there to see old Hitchcock movies and the like, and it was a beacon of film culture in the dark days of pre-DVD when foreign films were hard to find in Leeds. It still is a beacon, a jewel, a delight.

And seeing The Artist here, in this setting, was sheer joy from start to finish. From the magical moment that the 4:3 screen ratio just appeared and ‘fitted’ the scale and proportions of the Picture House screen, through to the gentle soft tones of the authentic-looking film stock and the surreal experience of viewing the opening shots of the film in the film being viewed over the heads of the audience being viewed over the heads of the Hyde Park audience… A reflection of a reflection and a continuing inter-connected experience: where did reality start and finish? What was the reality?

I loved it. I absolutely loved it. It sends shivers down my spine just thinking about the showing and how close I came to missing it all.

I can’t imagine seeing it now in a multiplex, and the idea of watching a DVD is laughable.

A big thanks to Neera and Jay for a great evening!

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