This is a film still from QUEEN OF DIAMONDS (1991).

SCREEN DIARY: Reopening encounters (May to June 2021)

It has been a busy period, keeping up with cinema reopening news whilst trying to get to events as often as possible. And then life got in the way, twice (!) at the ends of May & June, trumping my plans to see more. So, here’s a quick summary of my encounters in the darkness via the medium of Instagram…

By RADIANT CIRCUS // Twitter @radiantcircus / Instagram @radiantcircus


JUDAS & THE BLACK MESSIAH was a profoundly moving and visceral film to see with an audience on reopening day… Not just because of the content of the film and its true life story, but also because of the spontaneous round of applause that erupted from the rather shell-shocked crowd as the credits started to roll. It was everyone’s first day back, and The Prince Charles Cinema’s first public screening: I don’t think anyone knew whether to laugh or cry… It was certainly great to be back in the darkness, but christ, what a journey to get there…

19 MAY 2021

Accept this as a simple statement of fact… Life needs more Josephine Baker in it (and her dog too, whose name I’ve already forgotten, which is probably why I don’t write reviews…). Being back at the BFI led in turn to another great joy (next slide please…).

20 MAY 2021

24 MAY 2021

This time I was simply back at BFI for a showing of a film by one of my favourite filmmakers, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s SYNDROMES & A CENTURY from 35mm as part of BFI’s Dream Palace season. With a recorded introduction by filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane, this was an opportunity to fall back in swooning love with the hallucinatory experience of seeing films on the big screen, where your conscious and subconscious minds melt together like some kind of sublime, cerebral croque monsieur.

10 JUN 2021

13 JUNE 2021

19 JUNE 2021

QUEEN OF DIAMONDS (main featured image) was not the busiest screening I’ve been to since reopening (that award is taken by RARE BEASTS at Genesis Cinema), but it was possibly the one I wanted more people to experience. The film will be far from everyone’s cup of tea, but for 77 mins, the heat and the haze of Las Vegas life devoid of momentum felt a lot like some of the last year. There’s a sequence where the characters counter a burning palm tree in the desert. No drama, they simply stand there and watch it burn. And so do we, the camera locked off behind them as the whole thing goes up in flames. It has become one of my most potent encounters of the pandemic, and yet, like a passing UFO, few of us will be able to bear witness.

23 JUNE 2021

27 JUNE 2021

CAIRO STATION is one of those features I’d probably only ever see because of its place in a small/compact repertory season I loved and wanted to hoover up. Return To The City screened at Barbican Cinema and was just what I was looking for: “After many months of worldwide lockdown, leaving bustling city streets deserted and shutting us out from these vital and exciting spaces, we finally return to the city” (Barbican).

The film itself was a psycho-sexual melodrama set in the charismatic Cairo Station and is probably one of the few films to combine a doomed love interest with a debate about unionising the many workers who try to earn their living from passing trade. Perfect Sunday afternoon cinema, but probably only just once…

28 JUNE+ 2021

Well, I guess it had to happen sometime… I got pinged by the NHS app for having been in close contact with someone who had tested positive… Thanks to venues for their flexibility with tickets/funds and to friends for their food and drink supplies. Let’s hope we don’t have too much more of this… Until then, time to enjoy my own #freedomday with, you guessed it, a return to the cinema.

See you (back!) in the darkness,



Robert Altman’s POPEYE really is the HEAVEN’S GATE of comic strip movies… the production design is simply extraordinary, bringing the world of Sweet Haven to vivid life, Shelley Duvall is a beyond perfick Olive Oyl, and I’d forgotten how effective and moving the songs are. After all these years, I still have problems with Robin Williams’ Popeye, all his gurning and over-dubbed muttering leaves the film feeling unanchored (Altman doesn’t help here by repeatedly shooting Popeye from behind his cornpipe…). But it’s still a wild and utterly unique ride.




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