Saturday, 31 October 2009

Theatre v cinema

What a contrast! A theatre production earlier in the week that left me cross and dissatisfied and the pictures last night. At the BFI (British Film Institute) I saw The Powder Keg, dir. Goran Paskaljevic, 1998, five countries listed but I imagine the director is Macedonian or Serbian: the film takes place in Belgrade, after the Bosnian War and before the Kosovo War. I never thought, 'Look at those stupid actors' – they all seemed like real people to me. The structure of the film was episodic and loosely linked but felt entirely coherent. Visually it was magnificent and I was glad I'd seen it there and not on what now counts as a small tv at home. Just a terrific experience and one that goes on resonating as the Brecht play didn't. I resolved (again) to go to the cinema more often.

The BFI has a great programme of films that I wouldn't see anywhere else and that never make it to DVD. I've really enjoyed films from Greece, former Yugoslavia and Slovakia; I'd love to see some of them again but can't.

The frustrating thing with the BFI is that many of their films, like the Powder Keg, are shown only once or twice so it's hard to catch them on a free evening. Someone who works there told me that's all they're allowed: the film hiring contract limits the showings, the reason being that running a film is 'like scratching it with razor blades'. The material has a limited life, something I sort of knew but hadn't considered the implications of. I wish some global outfit would digitise all films and make them available. The viewing experience would be second-best but better than none at all.

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