This weekend I was asked whether I thought that the venue in which I watch a film is important. At home, the argument ran, there is a pause button and non-gouging snacks are available. At the cinema there are various potentially confounding aspects, such as projection quality, seat comfort and the behaviour of the audience. I decided that I preferred the extra commitment of leaving the house and taking a risk, even if, judged by some arcane objective standard, the experience might be less pure.
During the dark year of 1994, I was able for many months to choose early afternoon screenings at Cornerhouse and one of those was The Big Parade, a key Chinese fifth generation film. No one else turned up. It was just me and (for some of the time) the usher. Would they have proceeded if even I hadn’t bothered? Hard to say. I remain convinced that I enjoyed it more than I would have done had I merely watched it on BBC 2, back when such things were shown on terrestrial TV, perhaps more so, given the odd circumstances.
On Saturday I went to an early afternoon showing of Hirokazu Kore-Eda‘s I Wish. Apparently it was made in 2011 and it’s taken until now for UK distribution to emerge. Tsk. I’ve seen three of his previous outings – Afterlife, Nobody Knows and Still Walking. The latest popped up when I checked what was on at Curzon and I was delighted. If there could be a modern reincarnation of Ozu, Kore-Edu comes the closest to that archetype, quietly and unfussily revealing Japanese society.
The focus here is on two brothers, living apart with their separated parents. We witness how they protest against this rupture and try to engineer a reconciliation, arriving ultimately at a manner of acceptance. The childish logic is mad, fervent and relentless, yet makes perfect sense because Kore-Eda takes the children seriously, as always. The behaviour of the adults is also somewhat cracked, such as the grandfather’s quixotic dream of a cake business. He does, though, accept and assist in their quest to harness the magical powers created by the Shinkansen.
The Renoir was pretty full and there was lots of laughter throughout, some of it the nervous type ejected when a tragic element intrudes. “That was lovely”, I heard someone say at the end, and it really was. It’s quite a long film and, very unusually, you feel frustrated at the end, wanting to spend more time with these characters.
I think seeing it at home would be to miss out on a valuable part of the experience. As a collective the bond with the protagonists is stronger.