Why we should all embrace the celluloid glow of cinema season
It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s January. High time, then, that you booked a trip to one of Soho House’s screenings, says Hanna Flint
Saturday 14 January 2023 By Hanna Flint
Hollywood might be the home of movies, but Paris is the birthplace of cinema. Ever since the Lumière brothers screened 10 of their short films in the French capital, on 28 December 1895, the commercial cinematic experience was born and the city became a melting pot of screen delights.
To this day, Paris is said to boast the highest density of screens in the world, across as many as 75 venues, showing a smorgasbord of films, from arthouse to blockbusters, homegrown to international. According to recent figures, in its post-pandemic recovery, cinema attendance in France only dipped by 10% in 2022 compared to the US, which dropped by a third. There is clearly a national passion for the theatrical experience and Paris, with its rich history in front of and behind the camera, remains its biggest champion.
I can remember the first time I watched a movie in the City of Light. It was 2009 and my friends and I were finishing off an interrailing trip around Europe in Paris. We didn’t have enough money to get a hotel room for the night before our Eurostar back to London, so we thought we’d kill some time at a cinema. We bought tickets to see Inglourious Basterds because I love Quentin Tarantino, and as it was an American film we assumed it would be in English. Some of it was. But because of its setting in France during WWII, with French and German characters, we were only able to understand about a third of it.
I might have got an A in GCSE French, but it wasn’t enough to get me through French-speaking scenes, or understand most of the subtitles when the language was spoken German. So we nipped out into another screen hoping to find an English language film. We struck gold with The Final Destination next door, but when we were the only ones not putting on 3D glasses, the security guard pulled us out and returned us to Inglourious Basterds. So, we sat back and took in the visual language of cinema, and I soon realised I could understand far more than I first thought because of the performances, the framing, and the way Tarantino tells a story beyond words.
Returning to Paris this weekend, I made my first theatrical trip of 2023 to see David Lynch’s Wild At Heart at Christine Cinéma Club, just a short walk from Notre-Dame on Rue Christine. The room was packed and there was a buzz of energy in the air as people laughed, gasped and whooped at the raucous campness on display in this 1990s romantic crime caper, influenced heavily by Lynch’s favourite film, The Wizard Of Oz. As the credits rolled, people applauded. I smiled. When you enter a cinema screen, you embark on a journey with strangers. When you leave, you are bonded by what you’ve just shared together.
My job means I’m lucky enough to see films on a big screen on a twice, sometimes thrice-weekly basis, and many take place at Soho House 76 Dean Street, where I can melt into the comfy armchairs and put my feet up. Sometimes I get the honour of hosting screenings, too. Recently, at White City House, I hosted a special screening of The Shining and a Q&A with Academy Award-winning director Lee Unkrich, who had written the ultimate bible on the film. This year, I am enthusiastically looking forward to hosting some more.
The cinema is a community space. A place of camaraderie and kinship for us to be entertained, moved, educated, scared, and entranced. Once the lights go down, you can be transported to new realms and place the real world on airplane mode. The theatrical experience is more than watching films, it’s watching them together and, hopefully, leaving in awe.
Five awards contenders to watch at the Houses right now
Set in the international world of classical music, the film centres Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) – one of the greatest living composers, and first-ever female chief conductor of a major German orchestra.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) returns to peel back the layers in a new Rian Johnson whodunit. This fresh adventure finds the intrepid detective at a lavish private estate on a Greek island, but how and why he comes to be there is only the first of many puzzles.
A Man Called Otto
In this second film adaptation of the 2012 novel A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, Tom Hanks’ latest turn sees him play a widower on a mission to better his neighbourhood – a tale that feels apt in our atomised age.
Decision To Leave
Kind and polite detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) is entrusted with a case of unnatural death in the mountains. While investigating, he meets Seorae (Tang Wei), the dead victim’s wife, and can’t help but both suspect and fall for her.
Empire Of Light
A romance develops between Hilary Small (Olivia Colman) and Stephen (Micheal Ward) in a beautiful old cinema on the south coast of England in the 1980s.
To see our entire programme of cinema screenings, click here.