Thursday, 6th May 2021

Mark Kermode's pretentious review of an empty cinema

CINEMAS have been pushing boundaries recently by showing f**k all. Mark Kermode reviews their minimalist content: 

There is no bigger mystery box than cinema, according to director J.J Abrams who made a lot of films I didn’t like and the criminally underrated avant garde masterpiece Gone Fishin’. And judging by Hollywood’s recent output, he’s totally right.

I’ve been sitting in empty movie theatres for months now, often having to sneak in through bathroom windows just to get a front row seat to big screens showing absolutely nothing, and I’m as baffled as a layman would be at episode eight of Twin Peaks: The Return. 

No sound, no picture; it’s a daring directorial choice that even Michael Haneke or Jonas Mekas wouldn’t dare attempt. The narrative also breaks all the rules by introducing no characters and throwing the three-act structure in the bin.

This sense of unease familiar from Stan Brakhage’s oeuvre was also found in the deserted box office, darkened toilets, and stale popcorn machine. I haven’t seen anything this avant-garde since Secret Cinema did Un Chien Andalou. 

A jarring interlude when a projector whirred into life and began showing Tenet, because I turned it on thinking it was the light switch, briefly ruined my enjoyment until it broke and plunged me into darkness reminiscent of Bela Tarr’s Satantango. 

For my full eight-and-a-half-hour long review of this harrowing and vital cinematic experience, listen to my podcast where I graciously let Simon Mayo get a word in occasionally while referencing more directors you’ve never heard of.