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Northern exposure

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Mark Kermode | 12:05 UK time, Friday, 4 September 2009

About this time of year I like to watch favourite films of mine such as The Devils and Local Hero and Of Time and the City at the farthest, most Northern point of the British Isles that I can reach. And this year I'll be doing so in a bus shelter...


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  • Comment number 1.

    I watched the uncut version of Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom in Salo, Italy

    and I watched David Cronenberg's Crash in Westminster

  • Comment number 2.

    This might not be that strange but whilst on a film making project in Sarajevo last year, we projected Les demoiselles de Rochefort onto a white sheet sellotaped to a wall at a restaurant. It was a pleasant experience.

  • Comment number 3.

    You can't beat watching Kundun in McLeod Ganj, home of the Dalai Lama. The 'cinema' was a cupboard filled with 10 old coach seats and a widescreen tv.

  • Comment number 4.

    Dr. K

    Whilst on a night out me and my friends somehow ended up in a warehouse (Don't ask). After getting ridiculously intoxicated and eventually passing out, I awoke in the middle of the night to find that my friends had thus abandoned me in the warehouse, alone and locked in. After failing to find a way out I managed to stumble upon an lounge of sorts with a comfortable leather sofa and 32 inch T.V. So I treated myself to a double bill of The Dirty Dozen and Sweet Smell of Success.

  • Comment number 5.

    I watched the original Dawn of The Dead (uncut) projected onto the side of the new Cabot Circus shopping mall in Bristol in the early evening some months ago. It was quite an experience.

  • Comment number 6.

    You might end up flagging this comment, but i actually watched Titanic for the first time in front of me while i was having a go at "involuntarily" twisting and untwisting my large intestines with currency as smooth as Michael Bay's bank account.

  • Comment number 7.

    Ah the Unst bus shelter. We passed it only last week when we were on holiday, It has had a bit of a makeover since your photograph was taken. The decor is now a fine shade of pink and the John Peel Memorial Traffic Island has now been completed.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I watched Planet Of The Apes at the Grant Museum in UCL, surrounded by the carcasses of dead animals. Spooky.

  • Comment number 10.

    Watched The Happening on a portable Playstation. Terrible way to watch a film, just as well the film itself was terrible.
    Should have had this David Lynch warning.

  • Comment number 11.

    that video sums up perfectly why david lynch is one of my favourite people in the world. i also love the one where he's asked how he feels about product placement as a means to fund a film and he simply replies 'bullsh*t. total. f*cking. bullsh*t'.

  • Comment number 12.

    Don't know if you'd call this "watching" a film...

    In a club in Glasgow in the mid 90s, can't remember the club night (Slam?), the music was coming up, the people were coming up, and they were showing the final scenes of The Wicker Man on the wall. Everyone was cheering. It was actually quite disturbing.

  • Comment number 13.

    January 1999, the middle of winter, and I was in Canada, on a Greyhound bus from Calgary to Vancouver. Hurtling down icy highways between the Rockies at 80mph, there was a small (CRT) TV almost above my seat at the front of the bus, so had we gone off in to a ravine, that's what would have killed me, probably. The driver started a movie on the TV screens, and I plugged in my headphones to listen.

    Would it be something epic, stirring, elegiac, something to accompany my imminent icy, bloody, death? 2001, or perhaps Bergman? No: "One Fine Day", the 1997 rom-com with Michelle Pfeiffer, George Clooney, and some kids. Did it help take my mind off my impending doom? Absolutely. It's still my favourite rom-com to this day, which isn't saying much, but I have seen far worse, or parts thereof.

  • Comment number 14.

    Strangest place we've ever watched a film at?
    Do you want us to draw a picture as well????
    Can i use the crayons?

  • Comment number 15.

    I saw "Turner & Hooch" in a swimming pool, don't remember the film at except the dob slobbered and I obviously got wet.

  • Comment number 16.

    I wasnt there, but at the Film Stock Film Festival in Luton, they showed JAWS in the local swimming pool.

  • Comment number 17.

    Managed to rent "Stagecoach" and watch it on a laptop in a caravan in the middle of National Monument Valley. The locals laughed, but I would never have appreciated it as much in any other context...

  • Comment number 18.

    I did see Antichrist IN A CINEMA! that was quite a strange experience.

  • Comment number 19.

    recently saw both the 1963 "day of the triffids" and the 3d version of "creature from the black lagoon" in an art gallery in brighton. the gallery itself is inside a former church, and the screenings were done to coincide with the current exhibition which was an instilation filling the entire space, with huge white plant like sculptures, and just below where the screen was set up, a large pool of black water.

    the audiance were also invited to "draw along" to each of the films.

  • Comment number 20.

    Many years ago now, I went to a small festival in a valley south of Temuka (FYI south of Timaru, which is in the South Island of New Zealand).
    In a cave my friend and I found someone with an old projector. Were they showing movies? No.
    Someone, thinking they were being edgy and weird, decided to show some old footage taken in a psychiatric ward. What a way to set a mood. Watching some poor dude beat himself when ever his straight jacket was removed.
    Truly feral movie watching.
    p.s. Dr Kermode, with regards to FiveLive 4/9/9, Peter Jackson is NOT Australian. Kiwi's and Aussies have very distinct accents. Kiwis sound like drunk magpies who have no concept of vowels, and Aussies are just nasal. When you made that mistake there were cries of outrage in our house. Don't ever make that mistake again...ever.

  • Comment number 21.

    I don’t remember being as cold as I was that tonight. I knew it was the winter, and there have been a fair few times when I’ve sat on lonely railway platforms waiting for trains that might not come and I’ve shivered through minutes which seemed like hours but stations, even those open to the air still seem to have a warmth, even if it's because of the internal glow of knowing that home and a warm bed will be in the future. That night I stood for an hour and a half in the one place, my feet where numb, my cheeks raw and even hiding my wrists within my armpits underneath my coat didn’t work. I couldn’t move, but didn’t want to move and grim determination was forcing me to stay until the end.

    Especially because as a film fan, there was no way I was going to turn up to watch Murnau’s ‘vampire’ film Nosferatu on the Big Screen in Clayton Square in Liverpool and leave in the middle (though some did). It was part of the Liverpool Biennial’s The Long Night, and galleries throughout the city opened their doors until late with events including poetry readings at FACT, a short film festival at the Open Eye Gallery and this Halloween presentation in one of the most public squares in the city. Of course I selected the outdoor option on a night like this. In case you need to picture the scene, the BBC Big Screen sits between a Tesco Metro and what was then a Zavvi and is one of the main thoroughfares through to bus stops and Lime Street Station.

    This is not the perfect situation in order to see any film, even if it is a silent and yet it’s also the perfect place because it’s so unlikely. As the crowd gathered, people dashing past with their shopping also stopped to look and asked what we were watching. Cars drove through, a large van at one point threatened to park directly between the viewers and the screen (you can imagine the jeers which greeted that possibility), various teenagers turned up and poked fun at the images or rode about on bikes.

    Photographers queued up to take pictures of us, looking up at the screen on mass. I’ve seen spontaneous crowds develop in this same spot whenever a big news story breaks, but that’s different to our collective sense of purpose, of watching one of film history’s most unusual films in unusual circumstances. Which isn't to say that everyone stayed until the end; whilst some were doggedly sitting on the floor under blankets, others walked away visibly shivering.

    It’s a measure of what the director achieved that somehow some of his images pierced through despite the conditions, the noise, the lights, the distractions. By cranking the camera in experimental ways so that Max Schreck’s movements in the title role become unnatural, despite the obvious make up, he’s a chilling presence, though the directors has already noticed that the best way to show your monster is hardly at all and to let the victim’s fear project the image of what their seeing and it’s that we’re repulsed by.

    Taboos seem to stop Murnau from showing Nosferatu actually killing anyone, so the director instead emphasises the details of his killing and also introduced a plaque which spreads in his stead, allowing for lashings of coffin imagery and religious iconography. Considering the film was made in 1922 it still holds up remarkably well as a horror film, if not more so because the production design and values are alien to anything we’re accustomed to seeing a decade under a century later.

    There's no doubt the temperature helped with the atmosphere too, as steam rose from our mouths, though I'd be lying if I said there was no chatting, especially at the points when the film repeats story information (we know what happened on the ghost ship, we saw it) or is just plain incoherent (who are all these new characters? What happened to Hutter?).

    A new soundtrack provided by Liverpool group a.P.A.t.T. was a multi-textured accompaniment, which oscillated wildly but cleverly between a rural folksy sound to at one point, when the context within which that kind of beastie can exist in the real world is being explained by scientists, a dance piece with BBC Radiophonic Workshop influences. We saw the band as the film played, either cross faded with the action or in a small box at the corner of the screen.

    I think I actually lost track of the story during one of these moments and the effect was rather like watching Michael Winterbottom’s 9 Songs with the whoopee making replaced by German Expressionist motifs. But it didn’t matter – this wasn’t a time to be investigating Murnau’s use of lighting, but just to be in a place, enjoying an experience so that one day I could say as I was passing through Clayton Square in Liverpool:

    “You know what? I watched Murnau’s Nosferatu here one All Hallows Eve. It was freezing, and a truck nearly ran me over.”

  • Comment number 22.

    Dawn of the Dead (Romero), on a portable dvd player, in a mall

  • Comment number 23.

    'Strangest' no, but possibly the 'twinkliest'. A few years ago on a warm summer's night, I watched 'Amélie' while sitting on the grass slope in front of the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre. Not only were we sitting in the middle of the movie but past the screen we could see all of Paris glittering in the moon light.

  • Comment number 24.

    My best friend's mum told me this, so it wasn't me who saw the film, but i still think the story is pretty cool:
    She grew up in a small town by the sea where they had a drive-in cinema on the beach in the summer. The best way to sneak in was by a boat, so she and her friends would sit in a tiny boat some 20m away from the shore and watch a movie every saturday. Until, one saturday, the cinema was showing Jaws...

  • Comment number 25.

    I'd love to be able to share such stories, but living in the suburbs, my experiences with the esoteric. I've got a good-sized cinema (as you folks on the other side of the Atlantic call it ;)) near my house, but it's usually limited to the big mainstream stuff. With the exception of scrounging around dusty libraries, finding old subtitled VHS tapes and DVDs that look like they've seldom been touched. In a way, DVD is something to be thankful for: without it, I'd be stuck in the wasteland of mainstream cinema and Michael Bay-not a pleasant thought! But in a way, I feel like the comfort of my own home, nice as it is, is not enough. I think that part of the charm of cinema in the filmgoing experience, and I hope to someday be able to catch the screening of a film with a few fans in nearly empty art house with creeky seats.

  • Comment number 26.

    At a recent Metallica concert in Dublin, the Ecstasy of Gold scene from TGTBTU was played on an enormous screen as a prelude to the band's first song. It was incredibly powerful and appropriate in the sense that Ecstasy of Gold builds beautifully into full-blown operatics, just as the band made their way on to the top of the stage to the sound of 50,000 people screaming in anticipation and excitement. There truly is nothing quite like combining some of life's great pleasures - in this case, Morricone and Metallica!

  • Comment number 27.

    Completed unrelated...but I just saw this this morning, and it seems to highlight a key issue in today's cinema:

  • Comment number 28.

    During a year in Australia I watched 'Waterworld' while lying in an outdoor swimming pool. Can't get much more apt than that.

  • Comment number 29.

    Easy to beat: underneath the Oldtown of Nürnberg/Germany near the Imperial Castle you'll find the "Felsengänge", old mediaeval times rock-cut beer cellars. They play movies there during the summertimes. I've seen "The Fearless Vampire Killers" there but i missed "Nosferatu" which would fit even more into this location ->

  • Comment number 30.

    I seen Casablanca in an old church in Liverpool last January. It had been bombed by the Nazis and subsequently has no roof thus making it very cold however the organisers did give everyone a blanket and hot drinks so we were alright.

  • Comment number 31.

    Here's one you'll like....

    I watched 'The Exorcist' on Halloween in a village hall in Pluckley, Kent a few years back.
    Apperently it's the most haunted place in England.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi mark - i saw un chien andalou a couple of years ago in a gallery in madrid. the eye cutting scene caused a loud, stunned gasp from the audience and one woman at the front got up and stormed out. amazing to think that the film can have such an effect after 80-odd years...

  • Comment number 33.

    I saw There Will Be Blood on a very choppy ferry passage between Dublin and Holyhead. The not so gentle oscillations of the boat really added to the sense of eeriness and enhanced the whole experience. Maybe cinemas could look into adding a motion effect to their seats as opposed to the 3D screens that you so revile.

  • Comment number 34.

    At the end of a business trip, I ran into a girl who went to my high school. We were taking the same bus home and ended up sitting together. To pass the time, we watched "Lethal Weapon 2," sharing a single pair of headphones.

  • Comment number 35.

    I saw Eric The Viking in France. It was hilarious that my friend and I the only English speakers in the crowd would laugh a few seconds ahead of the French audience who got the jokes via subtitles. I had the reverse expereince watching Tampopo where my friends and I were the only ones who did not speak Japanese so we got the jokes a few seconds after anyone else. Both films had great physical humor as I recall which needs no subtitle.

  • Comment number 36.

    I watched "Deathline" with Donald Pleasance in an archaic 1920" cinema in Aberystwyth .The strangest thing was the two nuns who were sitting in front of us. When the depth-dwelling creature grabbed the heroine as she stepped off the tube, my boyfriend's foot shot out between the two nuns, narrowly missing them. They didn't notice a thing.

  • Comment number 37.

    First of all, i would like to thank the Doc for making me think back on this. I watched "The Backwoods" (Gary Oldman speaking spanish, nothing better) in a tiny stone shack on a beach at halloween one year, while a storm raged outside. Good times

  • Comment number 38.

    Over here, an the East Coast of the USofA, my little town of West Chester, PA has a fun secret cinema group called the Guerilla Drive In, which requires people to solve a puzzle in order to become members. We've seen Ghostbusters at the supposedly haunted Fort Mifflin on the bank of the Delaware River. We watched Back to the Future on the top deck of a parking garage, in view of the town clock tower, surrounded by 6 genuine DeLoreans. Next week we'll be watching Vertigo in a local climbing gym. Each film is projected from an old 16mm projector mounted on the sidecar of a classic 1977 BMW motorcycle. We're looking for ideas for the next event, any suggestions would be welcomed.

  • Comment number 39.

    I watched Barfly in bed with a really bad hangover, it certainly enhanced the experience.

  • Comment number 40.

    Rambo 4 was playing in a crowded bus travelling across Cambodia, dubbed in Khmer. No one seemed bothered that there were loads of kids on there, watching people get blown up.

    Any chance of some feedback on the Terence Davie movies? House of Mirth is one of the best British Movies ever made.

  • Comment number 41.

    Interesting, how The Sopranos creator David Chase really came into his own writing for Northern Exposure after The Rockford Files, don't you think, Dr. Kermode?
    He deserved an Oscar and a BAFTA for his writing. Heck, even Billy Crystal made that joke when he hosted the Academy Awards a few years ago. He said, "How can this be an awards show if 'The Sopranos' isn't nominated for anything?"

    Ah, I miss Billy's delightful comedy that speaks the truth.



  • Comment number 42.

    I once watched The entire Evil Dead series while in a folksy cabin in the middle of the North Western woods, whith 3 other friends. Once we made the connection we were terrified.

  • Comment number 43.

    Saw Speed 2, at Coroico, Bolivia, on the wall of the market (having just navigated the Yungas "Death Road")

  • Comment number 44.

    Hey Mark, is there going to be a Screenplay on Shetland in 2010? I've looked on the Web in various places and can only find references to last Summer's event.


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