TEN-IN-ONE: THE BEST & WORST OF 2017

RADIANT CIRCUS loves a ‘best of’ list at this time of year, so here’s our TOP TEN of things we have loved (and loathed) in 2017.


#1: Strangest experience?

NOW BOOKING: STAR MESSENGER screens at LUX (17 DEC).
STAR MESSENGER ‘happened’ at LUX (17 DEC).

STAR MESSENGER presented by PS/Y at LUX Moving Image featured Danish artist Marie Kølbæk Iversen’s moving pictures, Diana Policarpo’s incredible improvised percussion and Gaia Fugazza’s’s unnerving porcelain sculptures – Other Ways – that we held in our mouths for the duration of the event (unless you were overwhelmed by saliva, in which case…).

Whilst the overall experience ever so slightly outpaced the quality of the visuals, what an experience it was. We particularly welcomed the bracingly honest, schnapps-enhanced Q&A where Iversen spoke about the conception of the work in the horrors of her son’s childbirth, hallucinatory labour visions in the operating theatre and the ancient lore of Scandinavian shamanism. An unforgettable exercise in embracing fear as a pathway to new discoveries. Wow!


#2: Biggest frustration?

From back-slappy intros (bordering on acceptance-speech nausea), to near-incomprehensible academic appreciations and promoters drifting in and out of their own films, our year was haunted by one thing: dodgy showmanship.

Engaging an audience is a challenge. We’ve seen people do it brilliantly and people do it appallingly. Often, the bigger the institution, the harder the fall, but there are hucksters of all shapes and sizes who will rip you off (and that includes everyone who made us pay for a short film night of poor rips, sloppy codecs and watermarked content…). We love London’s eclectic screen culture, and aren’t huge fans of ‘slick’, but having a bright idea isn’t (quite) enough. We recommend William Castle’s THE TINGLER as a basic education in how to put on a show.


#3: Can we talk about money?

LONDON FILM FESTIVAL: THE HUNGRY screened at Rich Mix (08 OCT).
THE HUNGRY benefitted from discounted ticketing at LFF17.

With all the year’s director retrospectives and a veritable atlas of film festivals, we’d love to have taken deeper dives into screen voices and subjects we didn’t know. Taking risks works when there are good multi-buy discounts (be they double-bills, BOGOFs or multipliers – ICA and BFI seem to understand this). It doesn’t work when the average night out starts at £20 (with or without travel) for a single-o exhibit. Distributors, venues and promoters need some (audience-focused) imagination here if more screens are to be sold out.


#4: Biggest thrill?

BRUCE & NORMAN YONEMOTO screened at Tate Modern.
BRUCE & NORMAN YONEMOTO: THE FUTURE OF MY DESIRE screened at Tate Modern (20 to 22 JAN).

Meeting famed LA video artist Bruce Yonemoto and chatting about his life and films at the exceptional BRUCE & NORMAN YONEMOTO weekender at Tate Modern. The (tragically) poor audiences that weekend inspired us to spend the year slowly plotting a future for RADIANT CIRCUS. So, a hero and, we hope, a legacy.


#5: Favourite venue?

HELLBENT screened at The Horse Hospital (16 AUG).

This year, it’s a toss-up between The Horse Hospital and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. With our hearts torn, we are going the full Lord Sugar and choosing both – find out why HERE. That means we aren’t able to include The Institute of Light and Regent Street Cinema – who get honorable mentions for providing proud homes to amazing indie programmers – Close-Up for their director retrospectives and experimental film nights and Deptford Cinema for a stunningly eclectic community-powered programme. All great places to shelter from the storm in 2018.


#6: Favourite indie?

MIRACLE MILE screened at The Institute of Light (??).
MIRACLE MILE screened at The Institute of Light (11 SEP).

We have thoroughly enjoyed Science Fiction Theatre this year, a regular (monthly) horse you can hitch your cinematic wagon to. Go for the amazing added value talks accompanying an intelligent selection of classics and curios. Of course, that means we aren’t able to pick Billy Chainsaw (for his unrivalled Nova Nights), Cigarette Burns (for a year of truly sensational screenings) and Kennington Bioscope (for keeping the early flames flickering). In fact, we might stop picking as there’s too much to love.


#7: What’s missing?

VIDEO DUNGEON: Kim Newman spoked about his new book at The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies (12 OCT 2017, The Horse Hospital, London).

How we see films can sometimes be as significant as the films themselves, and that means we would have loved to find some (any?) true midnight movie screenings in our year: surely the advent of the Night Tube and Overground make this possible? However, our single biggest wish would be to expand London’s definitions of ‘world cinema’ to include a richer, regular diet of ‘psychotronic’ or underground movies from across the globe. Not wanting to boast, but we won a copy of Kim Newman’s Video Dungeon by asking about this at his book launch (part of the excellent Miskatonic Institute season at The Horse Hospital) and it’s a theme we’ll certainly come back to in 2018.


#8: Celluloid or digital?

ALIEN screened at Picturehouse Central (26 APR).
ALIEN screened at Picturehouse Central (26 APR).

We’ve come to the conclusion that we’re format agnostic. Seeing a film on celluloid can be wonderful; other times it can be, well, more than a bit pink… There’s clearly a line to draw and there’s no single purist approach that works. The focus should always be on the film and how we can see it as close as possible to the intentions of its makers (which opens the debate right back up…).

[As an aside… having lived through the 1980s, we also see no reason to shoot anything new on VHS. Unless it’s brilliant. In which case we’ll forgive you…]


#9: Lifetime achievement?

ODEON PANTON STREET is on a new journey...
ODEON PANTON STREET is on a new journey…

Our second Lord Sugar moment (forgive us…) goes to The Cinema Museum – because the campaign to save it isn’t over yet (we hope) – and Odeon Panton Street – because it already is, at least in its grungy repertory theatre form. The tiny central London venue will be heading into new life as a luxury cinema without us.


#10: Favourite attraction?

THUNDERCRACK! screened at ICA (31 OCT).
THUNDERCRACK! screened at ICA (31 OCT).

Drum roll please….

If we had to chose just one, our favourite single-o exhibit of the year would be, without hesitation, THUNDERCRACK! The (cucumber) essence of RADIANT CIRCUS.


And that’s the meat of it…

THANK YOU to all our friends and followers for an amazing first year at RADIANT CIRCUS.


A YEAR IN FEATURED ATTRACTIONS

These are our personal picks of the year from our weekly SCREEN GUIDES: a representative sample of some truly adventurous moving pictures. We will carry on the weekly tradition next year and look forward to hunting out the very best of London’s DIY, independent and alternative movie nights, film events and gallery screenings. Have a happy one!

GUMMO at The Prince Charles (w/c 20.01.17) // SHOAH at Close-Up (w/c 27.01.17) // CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR at Whirled Cinema (w/c 03.02.17) // P.S. JERUSALEM at Bertha DocHouse (w/c 17.02.17) // THE FITS at ICA (w/c 24.02.17) // A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT at Moth Club (w/c 03.03.17) // KONG: SKULL ISLAND at Picturehouse Central (w/c 10.03.17) // THE UNTAMED at BFI Southbank (w/c 17.03.17) // THE EYES OF MY MOTHER at Picturehouse Central (w/c 24.03.17) // SHAKESPEARE MUST DIE at Close-Up (w/c 31.03.17) // ERASERHEAD at Close-Up (w/c 07.04.17) //
WORLD ON A WIRE at BFI Southbank (w/c 14.04.17) // SEED: THE UNTOLD STORY at Bertha DocHouse (w/c 21.04.17) // LIFT TO THE SCAFFOLD at Ciné Lumière (w/c 28.04.17) // THE STUDENT at Whirled Cinema (w/c 05.05.17) // SPACESHIP at ICA (w/c 12.04.17) // THE FINDING FANON TRILOGY at Tate Modern (w/c 19.05.17) // THE GREAT DICTATOR at Prince Charles (w/c 02.06.17) // RAT FILM at ICA (w/c 16.06.17) // DISPOSSESSION: THE GREAT SOCIAL HOUSING SWINDLE at Arthouse Crouch End (w/c 23.06.17) // NOVA NIGHTS: EPISODE #4 – GRAHAM HUMPHREYS’ TALES OF MYSTERY AND IMAGINATION at The Horse Hospital (w/c 30.06.17) // BLOODY BEANS at Barbican (w/c 07.07.17) // BESOURO at BFI Southbank (w/c 14.07.17) // KUSO at Regent Street and ASSHOLES at Moth Club (w/c 21.07.17) // SITA SINGS THE BLUES at Deptford Cinema (w/c 28.07.17) // THE EVIL WITHIN at Regent Street (w/c 04.08.17) // NO BLADE OF GRASS at The Institute of Light (w/c 11.08.17) // DARK NIGHT at ICA (w/c 18.08.17) // THE ETERNALS at ICA (w/c 01.09.17) // THE ISLAND OF ST MATTHEWS at Tate Modern (w/c 08.09.17) // THE INCREDIBLE SIMULTANEITY CONSOLE at Close-Up (w/c 15.09.17) // BASQUIAT: RAGE TO RICHES at Barbican/Picturehouse Central (w/c 22.09.17) // LOS SURES at Barbican (w/c 29.09.17) // SEISMIC OOZE across London (w/c 20.10.17) // SIMON LIU: I DECIDED TO TURN LEFT at Close-Up (w/c 27.10.17) // QUATERMASS AND THE PIT at Prince Charles (w/c 03.11.17) // WONDER WOMAN at Genesis Cinema (w/c 10.11.17) // WEST OF THE JORDAN RIVER at ICA (w/c 17.11.17)// #STARVECROW at ICA (w/c 24.11.17) // #SUGARWATER at Genesis Cinema (w/c 01.12.17) // THE APU TRILOGY at BFI Southbank (w/c 08.12.17) // IN MEMORIUM: FRANS ZWARTJES at Close-Up (w/c 15.12.17) // THREE WISHES FOR CINDERELLA at Close-Up (w/c 22.12.17).


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*THE SMALL PRINT: As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any mistakes. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version. We don’t filter by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should be 18+.

Featured image: THUNDERCRACK! (1975).

Radiant Circus