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#165 The Spider’s Stratagem at the BFI

May 31, 2011

The shiny shine of the BFI. Some patrons, equally shiny. Others, NOT SO MUCH.

Let’s not talk about the film (1970s Bertolucci and yes very lovely and clever and that), or even about the British Film Institute’s shiny halls and movie theatres that are the very definition of art-school swagger, down on the South Bank, smugly out-dazzling the worthy old 60s brutalist interior architecture around them.

No, let’s talk about the people who move through these halls. In all our travels around London’s shiny palaces, we’ve never seen such a strange set of contrasts. We’re not talking middle-class versus working, here, or stupids versus intelligents, or anything like that.

It’s fashionable film folk vs movie nerds.

This may have something to do with the fact that while cult film fans are classic white male introspective types, the film industry itself (if that’s what you can call our lottery-funded shambles) is populated by the same mix of self-aggrandising, zero-degrees-kelvin-cool people you always find in high-end media. Some of these people have to go to the BFI in the same way you have to collect your work post from the postroom, and with the same sense of weary cynicism, too.

Let me give you an example of the two types:

Jasmine Sang-Froid
Exhausted from: Cannes
Likes: Sushi, *wallpaper, Manolo Blahniks
Hates: Being groped by Jack Nicholas

David Acne
Exhausted from: 48-hour Eisenstein marathon
Likes: Sight and Sound, Korean torture-porn epics, Miyazaki in the 80s before he started rehashing old tropes
Hates: People who refer to The Dark Knight as ‘really challenging, y’know, like, a superhero movie but clever

The world being the world and all, the two tribes aren’t equal in numbers: there are lots more trad geeks than film people. I’m one of the geeks, I suppose. I wasn’t expecting this distinction at all, but there you go. London never ceases to surprise. Maybe someone should make a film where they fight. I need lottery money!

While you’re gawking at the two sets, you might want to investigate the BFI’s shop, which evinces a slightly different type of split-personality disorder: in this case, between stern biographies of forgotten 60s auteurs and great big dumb books called things like THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: THE MOST BESTEST MOVIE HUMAN PEOPLE HAVE MADE SO FAR?!, with big photos of explosions and six words to a page. That’s The Movies for you, I guess.

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