The modern cinema-going experience can be somewhat soul-destroying. Too often you find yourself in a sticky-floored multiplex where any sense of film as an art form is stripped back to lowest common denominator blockbusters. But the UK has a fine heritage of interesting, unusual and important cinemas, relics of a lost age where film’s place in the social and cultural pecking order was very different. In the latest issue of Printed Pages, photographer and filmmaker Jake Green takes us inside London’s Renoir cinema, a last longing look around a space on the brink of being refurbished. We caught up with him to find out a little more.
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When did you first become aware of this cinema?
Oddly I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of The Renoir, importantly it has always had a big association with The Brunswick Centre. It’s not like I grew up near there, but I have a vivid memory of seeing pictures of The Brunswick Centre in an architecture book my dad had.
What made you want to document it before it was refurbished?
A friend of mine (and former It’s Nice That assistant editor) Bryony Quinn was working there and told me it was being refurbished, invited me to visit and asked if I’d be interested in documenting it.
I was attracted by the end-of-an-era feel and capturing something for the last time. The aim was to produce an observational film of an iconic space before it was lost.
“Filming was almost meditative – watching and feeling the emptiness of those spaces, it was a very calming experience.”
What was the process of working in that space like? As a filmmaker did the experience of working in a cinema like this have added poignancy?
It was a very quiet space; not many people around, very different to the bright and garish multiplexes. Filming was almost meditative – watching and feeling the emptiness of those spaces, it was a very calming experience. Being in a large dark cinema by yourself can also make you feel very small and very alone. That space has a real history, so I felt a pressure to do it justice.
What were the biggest challenges in trying to capture this space?
It was very difficult working out how to give life to a building that was so empty, movement to a building without any severe camera movements. I wanted the cinema and space to slowly reveal itself. I really enjoy static shots, but it was hard to get the timing right.
Tell us a bit about the wider project this shoot is part of…
The Renoir is one of five films shot for a project called 32LDN founded by Simon Poon Tip. The aim is to create 32 films about people and places in London. It’s fundamentally a celebration of London and an observation of the people and places that inspire us. Simon and I are both born and bred Londoners and we had an almost immediate bond over our love for London and a need to express our appreciation of it.