London and MOMI

Monday 9 March 1998 Back Next

TO DO: Meet Skippy in front of Hamley's at 6 (Regent St. between Picadilly and Oxford). It's a large toy store.

9:27 AM, Camberley Station: After taking a very so-so picture of the rails, I realize that there's no film whatsoever in my camera, despite delusions to the contrary. Fortunately, I have some on me. As yesterday was dim, this morning is clear and bright. A bell rings. The train must be here. (Not to self: icon for pictures should be that of a blind man with a cane. Or a blind man attempting to take a picture with an old shoe with a hole through the sole.)

3:45 PM, Museum of the Moving Image Café: After about 5½ hours wandering through film history, I again see the daylight. I accept a mild gouging for a fruit cup which goes down very nicely. I'm in the new film Café overlooking the river on the South Bank (of the Thames). As usual, I find it ironic that I travel 6 or 7 time zones to watch movies in a place called "Waterloo." The light is fabulous right now. I think I'm going to have to go out and take a few photographs. With film in the camera this time. More on the MOMI later.


Met Skippy at the designated place and time, went to Wagamama for noodles and dumplisngs and tasty juices. A walkabout downtown London (or at least the west end) and we're off. Haven't had such a pleasant day in ages. I wandered around Soho looking into shop windows at lots of brightly lit merchandise. Passed by the most ostentatious "The Gap" store I've ever seen (Regent Street). The facade was dark wood, a corner entrance with very tall doors and thick glass windows. Very posh, very expensive. To sell pants and colorful tops. We passed by a number of rug stores. One had a fabulous runner for about £650 that you look great in my hallway. Beside it in the shop window was a stunning silk rug with vibrant colors that must have taken months to weave. While not really my thing, it could be had for an exorbitant price, I'm sure.

Shall I talk more about MOMI and why I spent 5½ hours there? Yes. They have people dressed in period costume throughout the museum to talk about whatever's at hand. A rather haughty turn-of-the-century Londoner explicates the magic lantern. A French woman whose mother-in-law showed 2 minute kinomatographs (the woman now runs a bijou in the late 1920's and shows Charlie Chaplin films, but isn't keen on D.W. Griffiths (Too much intercutting, stories are too complicated. And she wouldn't show "Birth of a Nation" because of the poor reaction it received in the States. Something about glorifying the Ku Klux Klan.) A comrade of the Red Army showing films about the Russian revolution. She fascinated me and I stayed with her until the film clips she was showing began to repeat. She spoke pretty much nonstop for quite a long time, all with a Russian accent I wanted to imitate. (I wanted to speak French to the Bijou woman too.) All about the decadent Tsar Nicholas and how he didn't help the sick and unemployed. Plus a neat bit of trivia with which you can amuse your friends: in a lot of film s of Lenin, you're not really seeing Lenin; it's an actor. You can tell it's the real think when he gestures with his left hand. Lenin was left-handed. Fitting, really. All right-handed Lenins are actors.

There were newsreel clips... Clips from documentaries from the 1930's.A Baird television replica (I saw a real one in Toronto at the TOM a couple years ago.) Stuff about movie sound -- the advent of magnetic Dolby 6 track digital sound. About the development of colour film technology. Film during the war. Film as propaganda. Holywood and the studio system. Fred Astaire's outfit from "Shall we Dance." A dress worn by Ginger Rogers (who did everything Fred did, in high heels, backwards.) A history of British cinema. The costume worn by the Draughtsman and a coipy of his Contract. Cleese and Palin's swimming fish from "The Meaning of Life". (They're quite large, maybe 5-6 feet long.) Art Deco movie house designs. Fire curtains. And age when the architecture of a movie theatre could be enjoyed, not dreaded. A machine for playing an endless loop of 35mm film, 90 minutes long (two horizontal platters-cum=spools, some toothed rollers, you know. Lots of stuff.) A place for you to read the television news and have your friends watch on a TV screen. Surrealist cinema. The "look" of a Paramount vs. RKO vs. MGM film.

By the end I was quite full.

<Picture of a movie ticket>

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