We started RADIANT CIRCUS to hunt for more adventurous moving pictures, heading away from London’s multiplexes into less familiar territory. We’ve learnt a lot.
Since starting up, we’ve been helping more people expand their screen journeys through weekly screen guides, occasional reviews and special features. We’ve also started to nudge our blog into the real world with projects that bring like-minded people together.
Here’s our top 10 tips for more adventurous moving pictures in London. Read TOP 10 LONDON CINEMAS for great places to shelter from the storm.
1. WATCH LESS
Given the proliferation of affordable screens — in cinemas, at home and online — it’s too easy to graze copious amounts of film without ever feeling fully satisfied. Moving pictures had become our fast food rather than the basis of a formidable feast. Now, we’ve got nothing wrong with a wide range of dirty snacks, but we missed the gastronomic excess of an awesome meal. Cutting down on what we watch, and becoming more discriminating and deliberate about what we see, has reaped rewards.
2. GO HUNTING
Remember when you were happy to queue around the block for a major movie release? Or when you spent hours with your friends teasing out even the tiniest of details about new films in production? As access to film has increased, film releases have lost much of their excitement. Whether it’s the identikit nature of mainstream movies, the reliable safety net of home cinema or the saturation of social media, access has diminished pay-off. Navigating a more adventurous journey by taking time to hunt for moving pictures that are rare, rich and rewarding, has rekindled expectation and joy.
3. EAT LOCAL
A great starting point for fresh cinematic adventures is the growing number of small independent cinemas across London. From the miniature joys of Deptford to Lexi, Whirled and beyond, backing your local cinema supports their screen business and feeds your moving picture appetite. Community cinemas regularly invite volunteers to help programme, promote, run and maintain their venue, giving you the perfect opportunity to inspire and sustain future cinematic odysseys, whatever your skills.
4. KNOW YOUR SPECIALIST SUPPLIERS
For many, cinema-going is based on convenience, heading central (the West End or Southbank) or staying local (your neighbourhood Odeon or Picturehouse). But London is a true cinema city and there are specialist suppliers of moving pictures scattered across the capital. Venues like Ciné Lumière (French language cinema), Close-Up (the filmmakers that shaped cinematic history) and JW3 (Jewish screen culture) are worth travelling for, as are the many festivals that regularly colonise our screens.
5. GET SOCIAL
Becoming more discriminating about the movies we see — and blogging about it — has unexpectedly brought social issues we care about to the fore. Documentary cinema is a great source of social insight and London’s screens are full of outstanding shorts and features from new and established voices. From the dedicated screens of Bertha Dochouse to regular seasons at ICA and elsewhere you are never far from cutting edge filmmaking. Remember too the growing number of ethical suppliers like Lexi Cinema and their roaming sister project the Nomad, that are dedicated to giving something back.
6. GO TO A GALLERY
Narrative and documentary film are only part of the landscape of adventurous moving pictures. To enter the world of avant-garde, experimental and artist films, as well as video installations and irregular pop-ups, the committed film fan should head to an art gallery. Cultural cathedrals like Tate, Whitechapel and Serpentine have all featured in our screen guides, as have smaller parish churches for the fearless like Tenderpixel and The Horse Hospital. Galleries can assault your eyeballs with sizzling images. The trick here is to take a leap.
7. BE AUTHENTIC
Whilst many moving picture masterpieces were shot on film, the days of seeing them projected in their original formats are fading fast. Despite the beauty of high quality digital restorations — processes that are salvaging many fragile masterpieces from permanent loss — there can* be something magical about seeing a film projected in its original 8, 16, 35 or 70mm. Thank goodness there are a number of devotees of original format screenings — venues like Picturehouse and Prince Charles as well as independent promoters like Cigarette Burns Cinema and Ciné-Real 16mm — keeping celluloid alive.
8. FOLLOW THE SEASONS
The challenge of deciding what to see, where and when can be alleviated by letting someone else do all the hard work for you. From one-off seasons to signature strands, let screen programmers be your sommeliers of the dark. Some of our favourite recent seasons have been at BFI (Martin Scorcese’s World Cinema Project) and Barbican (Cinema Matters: The Battle for Representation) but London is well-stocked with programming talent across smaller specialists like Regent Street, neighbourhood screens like Genesis and revival palaces like Prince Charles.
9. BACK DIVERSITY
Tired of always hearing the same voices and seeing the same stories? Bursting your cinematic bubble requires affirmative action. Commit to seeing more films made by women or that tell black / LGBTQ / disabled / refugee / jewish / first nation tales. From festivals to short seasons and strands, hunting out films based on the diversity of films, filmmakers and audiences can take you on an eye-opening adventure. London benefits from some of the most diverse screen programming on the planet – lap it up.
10. FEAST ON GLOBAL FLAVOURS
Finally, living in a world city means that you can always dine on authentic global flavours. From festivals to seasons and strands, simply picking an unfamiliar destination will reap rewards but try setting yourself the challenge of filling your passport with as many cinematic stamps as possible. Not seen enough Azerbaijani cinema? Hunt it out. Unfamiliar with the glorious excesses of Filipino action flicks? There really is no excuse…
Featured image: LA JEUNE FILLE SANS MAINS (2016) screened at Ciné Lumière (27 JUNE 2017).
* The film print has to be in good nick — after all, no-one needs a too pink ALIEN…