A new website is available in all good Internets this week – savethekino.com. The Kino is Cork’s own independent art-house cinema and the only one of its kind outside of Dublin. Last week it was on the brink of closure and a public campaign is now underway to save it. Please help if you can. Cork needs a home where people can gather to unashamedly watch off-beat films, independently made films, foreign films or, to use the collective term, Quare Films. There was a time when watching a Quare Film was an undertaking that was fraught with risk.
It may come as a surprise to the misty-eyed but years ago when Gay Byrne presented the Late Late Show, not every show was a landmark TV moment. Sometimes it was just plain dull. Gay had a roster of favourite guests and frequently would bring them on just for a chat. Old-school comedian Tom O’Connor would tell a joke about Paddy who appeared to have a deeply dysfunctional relationship with his mother-in-law. The audience would laugh as they tried to look at themselves in the studio monitor. But I wasn’t laughing. I wanted to watch ‘the other side’.
While the Late Late Show dominated RTE One, tucked away on RTE Two was the ‘Forrdin’ Film. At a time when most people had only two channels, RTE clearly decided that if you didn’t want to see someone scrunch up their face and say “wobbly bits”, you were some sort of beardy type, or deviant, or both. As an annoyingly pretentious adolescent, I was too young to have a beard and lacked the imagination of a deviant but every Friday night I lobbied my mother to switch over to watch the foreign film. “It’s a very important Hungarian film, a cerebral commentary on human condition.” Mostly she said no, but now and then when her annoyance spilled over at the umpteenth appearance of Noel V. Ginnity in the Late Late studios, she relented.
I think it was Aristotle who first proposed the universal law that says that when you change channel, the probability of immediately seeing a graphic sex scene is directly proportional to the probability that you will be watching with your mother. Without fail, Noel V. Ginnity was replaced with by a rapidly undressing foreign lady giving a rapidly undressing foreign man explicit instructions in subtitles as to what they both should do next. When I realised what was about to happen, my mind would scream: “Put your top back on, Magdalena, now is not the time!”. But there was no stopping Magdalena as she proceeded to give Ferenc a very important induction into the ways of Woman. As the two bodies writhed on the screen in front of us, I squirmed in embarassment. After seeing “YES!” appear several times on the subtitles, my mother would turn to me and say: “Is THIS what you wanted us to watch?”
My father, would sum up the whole tableau with the phrase “I’d say this is a bit mushy”, demonstrating, perfectly, the art of knowing understatement as the two Hungarians now appeared to be doing some sort of full-contact synchronised swimming move. We would then switch back to the Late Late with relief and when Noel V Ginnity told us what Casey said to the doctor, we laughed and laughed.
The Kino was opened in time for the 1996 Cork Film Festival – I rejoiced. I could watch all the Magdalenas I wanted. I was in the throes of my polo-neck-wearing, obscure film-watching phase. I went on a date with a scarf-wearing girl to see ‘Nico Icon’, a documentary about the Velvet Undergound singer. “So what did you make of that?” I asked the girl afterwards. She said “It was amazing! I thought the film cast a harsh light on the underground world of pop art and music in the 1960s and 1970s through the prism of a girl who lived a life of beauty and excess in equal measure. I’m deeply affected by it.” she replied. ‘So does that mean I’m more likely or less likely to get a shift?’ I wondered silently.
Unfortunately as the years have gone by, I have not gone to the Kino that often, and now I feel bad that it’s in trouble. That seems to be a widespread view. As Chris O’Neill, the Kino’s Programme director pointed out in a radio interview this week, while more than 6,000 have pledged their support on Facebook to save the cinema, the cinema’s own site has only 830 fans. If the Kino does survive this crisis it’s up to all of us to follow up on our messages of support and donations and actually go to the Kino and take a chance on an independent film.
For many this will be a new experience. Some art-house films can have a reputation of being elitist, impenetrable, or as they say in the industry, shite. This is often undeserved but in order to broaden the appeal of independent films, I’m currently writing my own cross-over art-house romantic comedy called My Best Friend’s Existential Crisis. Here’s the blurb.
Kelly Schwarz (Hilary Duff) is nearly 30 and still no sign of a ring! Even her wacky best friend Maria [Lisa Kudrow] is getting married and guess who’s the bridesmaid? Then Kelly meets Kyle (Vince Vaughn). Handsome, suave, smart, he’s everything she’s waited for. But Kelly’s world is turned upside down when it turns out that Kyle is Death!Join Kelly on a madcap adventure as she has to play chess with Death to bargain for her life while the St Petersburg proletariat riot in the streets. And when Maria’s brother Lance (Adam Sandler) comes back from the Amazonian jungle having gone insane while looking for a city of gold, Kelly is faced with the choice – Is it better to take a chance on Love? Or sit in black and white in a dimly lit room smoking and being mysterious.
What’s a girl to do?!
It’s a quare idea, but it just might work.