December 20th, 2019

Dogfight [by the_gneech]

You Need A Cup Of My Famous Java

The Cinema Museum in south London has been up and running for a while, but Wednesday night was my first visit - thanks to a screening in their 'Kennington Noir' series of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, one of my favourite films.

It's a beautiful site, filled with old-place smell and cinema memorabilia from posters to signs advertising 9-shilling seats in the circle. Upstairs, the screen and seating share space with a bar and a shop selling secondhand books. (I inevitably picked up a Bond book I didn't have: "Oh! How did that happen?" exclaimed my companion.)

We were treated to cartoons and an interval, in the traditional format I remember from being taken to see Disney films at Poole Arts Centre when I was small. Due to the season, these were early Pixar short Knick Knack, already displaying the studio's talent for comic timing and conveying expression in simple shapes; the Christmas episode of Nick Park's claymation Creature Comforts; and Mickey's Christmas Carol, which I hadn't seen since I was young enough to be genuinely spooked by Scrooge falling into the open grave during the Ghost of Christmas Future bit.

Then it was time for the main feature.

It was always going to be likely I'd enjoy Steve Martin in a spoof of the hardboiled detective genre. It helps that it's also a brilliantly clever film, using a cunning script and tricksy cinematography to include scenes from classic 1940s movies: Martin as Rigby Reardon orders Humphrey Bogart to put on a tie, and sits opposite James Cagney in prison, disguised as his mother. Superb costuming, sets, props and lighting, with contributions from grandees of the era like costume designer Edith Head, make the conceit work in a magical, joyful way that CGI could never achieve.

I get a little more out of the film with every viewing; on this occasion, I was able to recognise the party scene as the one from Notorious, which I saw a couple of months ago.