14 September 2011
Mark Kermode at the Oxford Playhouse

""A performance in two parts" "

A theatre review by: Nicholas Newman

1. Screening of William Batty’s classic film the ‘The Ninth Configuration’
2. A talk about this film and what is wrong with cinema today.

Mark’s performance, last night (13 September 2011) at the Oxford Playhouse was what you expect from an accomplished and professional performer. It is clear he really loves his work. He certainly has a passion for film. It is not surprising this film critic is a popular guest for BBC Five Live and the Culture Show. Mark certainly provides value for money.

Yesterday, he was in Oxford to show one of his favourite films The Ninth Configuration, followed by a talk about his passion for the film together with a debate he led on what is wrong with modern movies and the decline of the cinema. This was all part of his nationwide book tour to promote his new book The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex

As for the film, it is certainly thought provoking; in a sense, it is based on the idea of putting a lunatic in charge of a military asylum to cure the inmates that are suffering from battle fatigue and stress. The film is set in a Dracula like castle; action hero Stacy Keach, cast as the new mysterious psychiatrist, plays the leading role. What becomes clear is that the inmates and the staff are playing a theological game of cat and mouse whilst madness rages all around them. The film raises many issues about the existence of god, good versus evil and sin. It is a very dark and entertaining film, which I will certainly recommend my friends to see. Something I have not done this year from seeing such Hollywood blockbusters as Harry Potter, Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean.

However, Mark’s opinion about the film and the decline of modern movies and local multiplexes was fascinating. He said today it is very unlikely that such an intelligent film as The Ninth Configuration would be made today. There is a common belief in Hollywood that successful films must be designed for the brain dead. Yet, this year’s $1bn grossing Inception proved them wrong. It was relatively cheap to make, and at the same time a very thought provoking and challenging film. It is clear from what Mark says a film fails in terms of poor box office results, not because it receives a poor review from some critic, but because it was a poor film that failed to entertain and satisfy the needs of the paying customer. So it is unfair for the makers of Pearl Harbour to blame critics like Mark when such a film does badly at the cinema.

However, what I did find surprising was that the popularity amongst filmmakers for 3-D was ending. He mentioned several major film producers that indicated that they would not be making new 3-D from next year. Mark observed that the popularity of 3-D came in roughly forty-year cycles. Ticket sales had indicated most people want to view films in traditional 2-D.

Lastly, Mark made some valuable points about how poorly we cinemagoers are treated, despite the exorbitant ticket prices we pay when we go to the local multiplex. He commented on the lack of customer care and concern about getting the film set up right for projecting. Today, going to the cinema is more like going to the pub than going to see a performance.

Image source: http://www.oxfordplayhouse.com/

Mark Kermode (born 2 July 1963) is an English film critic and a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. He contributes to Sight and Sound magazine, The Observer newspaper and BBC Radio 5 Live, where he presents Kermode and Mayo's Film Reviews with Simon Mayo on Friday afternoons.He also co-presents the BBC Two arts programme The Culture Show and discusses other branches of the arts for the BBC Two programme Newsnight Review. Kermode writes and presents a film-related video blog for the BBC and is a patron of the Phoenix Cinema in North London.

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