I went to the Peckhamplex cinema in Peckham on saturday. I’ve been going there quite a lot recently: It’s one of London’s leading independent cinemas, in the heart of one of it’s most vibrant, fascinating suburbs. I really like Peckham, with it’s intoxicating mixture of cultures, high street thriving with colour and music and chatter from across the globe. You could ask why I go all that way (two quite long bus rides) just to go to the cinema, especially when there are at least three cinemas much closer. There is something about this small cinema, screening films which mainstream cinema chains like Odeon don’t, which sets it apart: something about it’s small screening-rooms of less than a hundred seats, full of people there out of a genuine interest in film, which makes the longer journey worth it.
Given that I watched The Irishman on Saturday, you could also ask – and I can already hear my parents doing so – why I would go all that way to watch a film I can watch at home on Netflix. But the experience is simply not the same: watching a film at the cinema makes it an event – something you go specifically to do. Watching a film on your computer, at the same desk where you work, check the news and browse Facebook, turns it into something different. Watching a film becomes something less special and more throw-away: something to be done five or ten minutes at a time, before pausing it and doing other things. It strips film of it’s aura and turns it into something you just watch to pass the time, like watching sort clips on Youtube. I’d rather still award film the dignity it deserves.
This new mode of viewing interests me, though, especially in the way it contrasts with the type of cinephilia writers like Bazin and Keathley describe. It’s completely new, brought about by new technology, so I don’t think much has been written about it yet; but I think it’s worth going far deeper. I’ve started to make a few notes on the subject, but I can see this project potentially becoming something thesis length.