Cinema Obscura

I love cinema, me. You can dip into another world, another reality and emerge slightly altered, as you adjust to which world you’re in. You’ve got a rare chance to escape in the dark, or even take a nap. Plus you get a rest from chat while someone else does all the work. Let them be charming for a change, I’m knackered.

Gone are the giant, beautiful Art Deco picture palaces of yesteryear that used to adorn every high street. Now they’re turned over to bingo or God, with similar odds on salvation. Now South East London’s film lovers are being satisfied by film clubs, often in pubs, showing humanity’s ever resourceful ability to adapt, evolve and embellish all good things with booze. Here we take a look at some of the more obscure screens, followed by a film location guide, for movie geeks who like a mess about.

Camberwell

The Camberwell Free Film Festival reached its pints-and-pictures climax with Jim Jarmusch’s vampire flick Only Lovers Left Alive at the Camberwell Arms on last night and Pride at the Flying Dutchman recently.

The eleven days of fine free films across SE5 in pubs, cafes and other venues was a roaring success as Half-life took the opportunity to get muntered at the movies, while most simply enjoyed a nice pint at the pictures.

Only livers left alive
Only livers left alive

Borough & Bermondsey

Catching Paddington at The Roxy Bar and Screen on Borough High Street is more like watching a movie in a cocktail lounge than a cinema and is therefore betterer. Having the option of a rack of ribs and a martini instead of popcorn makes it a special place to enjoy some big films you missed first time round, due to your six-month delay between thought and action.

Shortwave bar
Shortwave bar

Shortwave at Bermondsey Square is a really charming little independent cinema with international film festivals and art house releases in an intimate 52-seat space. They also do a storming Bloody Mary in a lovely bar, should you not have time for breakfast. When I thought I’d ordered a half of Camden Pale and received a pint, the barman decided to charge me for the half but let me have the pint. Who isn’t going to want to return after that kind of treatment?

Deptford & New Cross

The free kids movies at Big Red Pizzeria in Deptford are perfect for Mum and Dad to tuck away a pint, on a bus, in relative silence while the little ones are absorbed by improbable adventures. It’s pub parenting at its peak.

Up the road at the Amersham Arms, the Deptford Film Club show foreign and classic films and the same location hosts The Bechdel Test Film Club. In this test, if a movie doesn’t include two or more women talking about something other than a man, it fails, so it’s a great place for non-sexist men to meet some skirt. Or, sexist guys to meet women way out of their league.

Forest Hill & Sydenham

The Capitol at Forest Hill used to be a handsome cinema, but now they just skip the films and go straight to the liver damage, courtesy of Wetherspoon. You can still catch Short Film Night round the corner though at The Hob and an eclectic film selection from Vortex Cinema Club at Doopo Doopo.

Sydenham has a pop up film club, in a pub. Bonus! Sydenham Film Club shows awesome classics like The Maltese Falcon and Harold and Maude at the Golden Lion on the last Thursday of every month, with boozes available to enhance the experience.

Peckham

For a relaxed, cosy experience within wobbling distance of a nice bar, you can’t beat the 30-seater Back Room Cinema at The Montpelier. It’s a lovely pub too, so your options are endless.

The Monty
The Monty

The rooftop cinema at the Bussey Building provides a unique outdoor space to enjoy a flick in the summer months, though it’s easy to find yourself just gazing at the 360-degree view over London, especially in my condition. With wireless headphones, blankets, deck chairs and booze you have everything the British summer requires.

East Dulwich

In East Dulwich you can catch The Bigger Picture film club at the EDT on the second or third Thursday of the month. They don’t know which; an uncertainty that endears me to them. You can watch excellent films lolling on a sofa, spilling pints‘n’shit down yourself. Next up, Linklater’s Boyhood.

Greenwich

Sci-fi nights at the Royal Observatory are a treat, especially if you like taking your entertainment whilst almost horizontal. Watching the utterly bonkers Barbarella there was special, though I’m not sure it’s licensed, so best drop an E early doors, just in case.

The Mycenae Community Cinema certainly is licensed and they put on an interesting range of carefully chosen films, for very little pounds, like the superb Le Dîner de Cons.

Woolwich

The Woolwich Grand Film Club is another that is trying to provide something in an area that needs entertainment beyond going to pubs and pushing each other in bushes. They’re also trying to keep themselves open and could do with your support. Luckily they’re also licensed, so you can watch a movie like Tommy Lee Jones’ The Homesman without having to deny yourself worldly pleasures.

Loughborough Junction

Whirled Cinema already got a mention in the Dulwich Raider’s piece on Loughborough Junction but hey, it’s beautiful and it’s got a corner bar and balcony so deserves another one. Now showing: Palme D’Or winner Winter Sleep.

What strikes me about all these films clubs and venues is the variety of fantastic films available in an environment where you are likely to get to know people who love good stories. The ready availability of boozes makes the chance of making your own stories more likely too.

South London Film Locations

If watching films is too passive an entertainment for you, why not re-enact scenes from movies made in these South East London locations? (Though you will have to BYOB to make it tolerable, of course.)

A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Thamesmead

Alex (Malcolm McDowell) dumps his mate Dim (Warren Clarke) into Southmere Lake in Kubrick’s futurist classic in clear contravention of local by-laws.

Please don’t chuck anyone in, though. Thamesmead’s doing its best to put the future behind it. You could always wrestle with your mates in a bowler hat, boiler suit, bovver boots and mascara, while high on milk and vodka. What’s wrong with that?

A Clockwork Orange is not really about violence though, it’s about free will. Use it to go to the pub.

Thor: The Dark World (2013) – Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Dark Elves and CGI trashed Wren’s masterpiece at Greenwich with so much racket it made my ears a bit thor.

Wearing a cape and carrying a big fuck-off hammer around the college may attract security, so maybe ditch the hammer and go to The Old Brewery, also in the grounds of the college. In your cape.

There, hold up a pint to the heavens and shout like the God of Thunder himself: ‘This ends here!’ before downing it in one, like some rugby twat.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) – The Black Prince, Kennington

The comedy spy movie, starring Colin Firth, Samuel L Jackson and Michael Caine, (see main image) sees an oik selected to join the Secret Service and kick the booty of a twisted global menace.

All you have to do to emulate Eggsy is to drink a pint at the Prince, wearing glasses, fight everyone and save the world. Someone will surely buy you a pint after that or something is seriously wrong with this country.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) – Queen’s House, Greenwich

It was a tough call between S&S and Octopussy’s use of the Maritime Museum next door, but Ang Lee’s award-winner won out for ease of re-enactment.

Overdress and have stilted conversations with acquaintances you secretly love and who are in with a shout of a mahoosive inheritance. Look yearningly in each other’s eyes like Pre-Raphaelite muses, then, in a break from tradition, repair to the Coach & Horses for a much better chance of getting in each other’s pants.

Eastern Promises (2007) – Thames Barrier, Charlton

Reliving Cronenberg’s brutal thriller on the Russian Mafia in London, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen, is likely to lose you sleep and lead you to soil your pants. Simplify the savagery by mudlarking near the Thames Barrier until you find a body.

Intimacy (2001) – Elephant & Castle

Also thought of as Last Tango in the Elephant & Castle, Intimacy is a curiously French cinematic experience set in South London. It stars Mark ‘Mark’ Rylance and caused quite a storm when it was suggested the on-screen sex was real, like anyone would want to see that.

It is perhaps more easily recreated than most films on the list. Simply have a bunk up with a monosyllabic stranger at the Elephant. Every week. On Wednesdays.

Mona Lisa (1986) – Vanbrugh Castle, Greenwich, & Crystal Palace Road, East Dulwich

One the best British films of the 1980s came through South London on the way to Brighton in the touching tale of an ex-con’s (Bob Hoskins) infatuation with a high class call girl (Cathy Tyson).

To re-enact, try getting dumped in East Dulwich, as Hoskins did on getting out of nick, and then get brought refreshments by a prostitute outside a castle. Then you will truly have honoured the late, great Bob.

Blow-Up (1966) – Maryon Park, Charlton

An enlargement of a park photoshoot reveals a possible murder, in a movie usually described as the best or worst film ever. Relive Antonioni’s classic on the mysteries of perception with hip clobber, easy sex and marijuana before lolling about in Maryon Park, taking pics of your most beautiful friend, hopefully enjoying a less ominous enlargement.

As much as I enjoy cinema alone, there’s no doubt it is great for a date. And sharing film with someone can confirm a bond or even reveal a chasm in the way you view the world: ‘What do you mean you didn’t enjoy Fast Velocity 7 – The Brakes Are Off?’

Another love doomed by art.

With thanks to the excellent South London Film Club Listings

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