It was Philip Jenkinson’s fault. Some time in 1973 the BBC’s film reviewer wrote a brief notice in Radio Times about that week’s TV films that spoke of making a black and white sci-fi movie in conditions so dark the director had no idea if the scenes would even be visible. That was it: I made an excuse to my friends, stayed home to watch World Cinema’s screening of Alphaville and the world was never the same again. Gorgeous style, hyper-intelligent ideas, sexual allure and comically laconic masculinity. Maybe not a new sort of Friday night in sophisticated Paris but it certainly was in teenage West Cumbria.
Not so many years later, on weekends away in Paris, we played the psychogeographer’s game of identifying locations from our favourite new wave films. This was where Belmondo and Seberg walked together; that must be the bar where Anna Karina and Sady Rebbot spoke in Vivre Sa Vie.
When I started to write fiction, I self-consciously wrote of road-journeys through Europe by men and women on the run from political and romantic pasts that would destroy them, that owed far too much to Pierrot Le Fou and Weekend to be readable.
And in 2002 I finally met my cinema god. The BFI were doing their Godard retrospective and I jumped at the chance to finally see rare screenings of Ici Et Ailleurs, Un Film Comme Les Autres and Le Vent d’Est. At one of these, knowing I had to leave promptly to meet a friend, I slipped out of NFT1 by the side-doors as the credits rolled – and found myself face to face with the man himself. We shook hands, I muttered incoherent words of admiration, and he was whisked past me into the auditorium to do his interview. I’ve always liked to think he imagined I must be a disgruntled walk-out, heading for the riverside pavement where he’d once organised wildcat showings of his own films in protest at the official screenings of them in the NFT itself.
Prophetically, Pasolini summed up the time of his death:
- like in a film by Godard – romanticism
rediscovered in a time
of neo-capitalist cynicism and cruelty
Je Vous Salue, Jean-Luc. RIP, cher maitre. Fin de cinema.
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