Now that we’re in the final days of the Festival Cinemas remaining open, the Bloor Cinema took the opportunity to offer some interesting programming: the 1965 cult-classic “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” and Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs”. Their scheduling was a welcome change from the second-run films that have characterized the Festival chain for some time.
On last Wednesday, the Bloor screened “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” The black and white cult-classic would have been a fine choice to show off the allure that repertory theatres still have for Toronto audiences, and the thunderstorm that broke again minutes before the screening brought an eager crowd through the doors and into the warm atmosphere of the lobby. With 1950s-era rock ‘n roll playing through the theatre’s sole front speakers and the popping of fresh popcorn, the experience the Bloor offers is one that is quaintly out of time.
But the illusion was shattered when the screen began to rise and a DVD player’s text appeared briefly on screen. Sure enough, “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!” was shown digitally, and not from a film print, as one might assume it would. If screening films isn’t contingent on having the actual prints, what’s stopping theatres from showing non-second-run films more often?
However, the experience was much better than the previous Sunday’s screening of Michael Winterbottom’s “9 Songs”, as part of the Art of Love Film Festival. Things got off to a slow start when a family of 4 had to be asked to leave. The mother, teenage son, small child, and baby apparently weren’t aware that Winterbottom’s contemporary romance is told through graphic sex scenes interspersed with live rock performances. But who could blame them? The Bloor isn’t much better than the Festival Cinemas in its adoption of unloved first-run films, which it will then shows at discount prices for the majority of its schedule. No wonder audiences turn up on at select screenings expecting, say, “Friends With Money”.
What’s worse for the “9 Songs” audience is that we were subjected to the screening of a short before the feature, entitled “The Devil Next Door”, for which would-be film director Sheldon Inkol was in attendance. And of course, he had to introduce the soft-core film, admitting that he was stalling because the cast was “on their way”. Fortunately, Winterbottom’s films have the ability to very quickly usher the audience into their worlds, so the camcorder-aesthetic of the baffling companion film was somewhat forgotten.
These two trips to the movie theatre felt like attending a film club screening, a film festival, and a dirty porn theatre (which the Bloor hasn’t been since the 70’s). Maybe instead of blaming DVDs and fickle audiences for the decline in attendance, theatres should reconsider their efforts to cater to every possible audience and focus on satisfying just one.