Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Mark Kermode: It's Only a Movie
Film critic and broadcaster Mark Kermode took some time out from his busy book tour to talk to Splendor Cinema and answer our now standard film questionarre. He will be coming down to the Dukes on the 29th March to talk about his new book, IT'S ONLY A MOVIE.
What’s your favorite cinema in the country?
The Phoenix in East Finchley. I grew up going there, that’s where I saw films like THE EXORCIST for the first time, which would change my life. Back then, it was called the Rex, and they used to do double-bills of movies like Passport to Pimlico and Kind Hearts and Coronets. They also did late-night double-bills on Fridays, and that is where I got my film education; directors like Cronenberg, Russell, Jodorowsky with films like THE DEVILS, SHIVERS. I recently did a talk there, and I remember sitting on stage, and seeing where I used to sit…I have been now been asked to be a patron of the Phoenix and it's an honour.
What’s your first memory of cinema going?
My first memory, as opposed to the first time I went, because I know my parents took me to see THE JUNGLE BOOK and things like that, my first memory is KRAKATOA, EAST OF JAVA. I don’t remember any of the volcano stuff, but I do recall this one bizarre sequence where Barbara Werle sings a song about being an ‘old fashioned’ girl. Many years later I went into a shop to get the DVD to find the sequence and it was there, but not exactly as I had imagined it.
So you had constructed the scene in your own mind?
Yes, so part of it was there, but the rest was clearly a product of my imagination.
What’s your scariest/strangest/most bizarre cinema going experience?
Scariest has to be the first time I saw THE EXORCIST – it scared the socks off me. The strangest has to be the first time I saw BLUE VELVET at at the Cornerhouse in Manchester. It hit me totally the wrong way, and I was basically offended by it. At the time I was writing for a publication called City Life and I wrote a very snooty review of it. Some days later I was in the Cornerhouse bar, and someone came up to me and said, ‘Are you the guy who wrote the review of Blue Velvet?’ and I thought ‘ Oh people are recognizing me!’ and said 'yes'. He then proceeded to hit me! I have since revisited BLUE VELVET and all the things about it that I hated, are the things that I now think are brilliant.
I know you’re not a filmmaker, but what film-related project that you’ve been involved with give you the most sense of achievement or pride?
You’re right, I am not a filmmaker, and I have never wanted to be a filmmaker. I think the best critics are not frustrated filmmakers. The best critics are ones who want to watch, not make, films. I have been involved, however, with some excellent documentaries (as a journalist, not a director) about some of my passions like THE EXORCIST. The one project I was most proud of though, was getting THE DEVILS, the Ken Russell film, restored and a whole big scene (now known as the Rape of Christ) restored to the print.
To this day Warner Brothers refuse to put this out on DVD. We presented it at the BFI Southbank in its full restored glory, in a season curated by me and my wife Linda Ruth Williams – the world premiere. It took us about four or five years to find the footage which Ken thought was lost forever.
What does the UK film industry need?
David Puttnam was the one who told me this some years ago, what we need, is an exploitation film factory. Like a Roger Corman-type set-up. Where filmmakers who grew up on Antonioni and Godard, can be given a budget, a brief (helicopter, wrestling, 90 minutes) and sent off to learn their craft, learn how to make money and what audiences want. All the top filmmakers from Coppola onwards in America came from that Corman factory and it helps filmmakers learn their trade.
Tickets for IT'S ONLY A MOVIE are still available and you can book here.