I’ve been going out quite a bit recently, which is something I haven’t done for ages. Hence the sudden rush of eating-out-and-a-show type posts. You’ll note I rarely eat out somewhere expensive, not on my own dime anyway. This time I ate at Damascus Bite on Brick Lane. I had a tangy lentil soup with pitta croutons and a wedge of lemon that I squeezed into the soup. My friends had yellow couscous, falafel, soft fried halloumi, salad, gorgeously vivid turnip pickles and moutabal, which is like a spicy babaghanoush. All this was sloshed down with pots of mint tea. We chatted politics and talked to other tables, who joined in. It’s cheap: we each paid around ten quid.
Last night I discovered a small cinema just off Brick Lane in the East End. It’s been there for eight years, but as I said, I haven’t been going out. When I was doing the supper club more regularly, I rarely went out because I had to save my energy. As I get older I can only do like one thing a day. Then came the pandemic, and staying in by myself. Then you sort of get used to it. You lose the habit of being sociable.
Close-Up has only got four rows of seats – it’s rather like going to a Hollywood producer’s house where they have private screening rooms. There is a bar, sofas and a huge library of books all about the cinema. Did you know I studied film at the Sorbonne? That was my degree: arts plastiques- option cinema. Then I became a single mum and so any cinema career was off the table.
The degree was more academic (lots of Godard, yawn) than practical, although I did my best to make use of any facilities they had. I made short films: one, my version of ‘Perfume’ the book (I used my actual baby and a job lot of sardines to simulate the birth in the fish market scene); a teeny bio-pic of Frida Kahlo, and a couple of super 8 black and white films, one on Menilmontant, another on incest.
Anyway, my film career didn’t happen. A decade of poverty-stricken benefits dependant single mum-hood ensued once I returned to London.
I still love film though. I like to sit in the front row, in the middle. I like to immerse myself, almost be physically swallowed up by it. I want to enter a cinematic trance, an altered state, as described by film theoretician Christian Metz.
Last night I saw Le Quattro Volte, originally released in 2015, which could probably be described as an art film. There was no dialogue, although there was sound. It was a bit depressing as art films often are but there are also laugh out loud funny bits. It is visually beautiful, with pauses and quiet parts, like a celluloid poem. Set in Calabria (a place I briefly visited last year, and somewhere I want to delve into more deeply, how I long to discover untouristic Italy) the film was directed by Michelangelo Frammartino.
I just absorbed it: struck by sadness and wind and trees and a baby goat that reminded me of my granddaughter, death and dirt and loneliness.
I had to read the wikipedia description to properly understand it. It was about how each person lives four times and the orphic transmigration of the soul. Pythagoras was a follower and moved to Italy, to Crotone, a former Greek colony in Calabria, to join the sect.
Afterwards I drank a ‘London Fog’, something on the bar menu at Close Up. This turned out to be a cup of Earl Grey tea with steamed milk and cinnamon. Just the thing to warm you up on a bitter winter’s day in East London before Christmas.
Close-Up Film Centre
97 Sclater Street
London E1 6HR
+44 (0)20 3784 7970
You can become a member for £40 a year, although you don’t have to join. They have a huge and interesting film library.