Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Barn Cinema

An esteemed ex-colleague, hearing of my bucolic move west, had the idea for me to post photos of barn doors onto This I never got around to doing, but have just managed a visit (see photo) to the Barn cinema in Devon, which must count as a consolation of sorts. Situated in Dartington estate, which also consists of an art college, music, dance and theatre venues, grounds, gardens and a cider press, it's a lovely little repertory cinema showing largely independent, foreign, and quirky films – in other words, it's a dying breed. Dartington itself is famous for its glassworks (Dartington crystal anyone?).

Sergio Leone's dollar trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly), as it became known, was showing all day Sunday. It was a lovely day – so what better way to spend it than 8 hours in a dark room (in my younger days I used to frequent all-night film showings at the Ritzy in Brixton and the Scala in King's Cross – alas, they don't do them any more). Having seen these films hundreds of times on TV, it was great finally seeing them on the big screen – what a difference it makes! It was like seeing (and hearing) them for the first time. Leone's dynamic compositions and Morricone's mesmerising score are a match made in heaven. Obviously Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef are brilliant, but I'd never consciously noticed before how Eli Wallach ('The Ugly') steals most of the scenes from under them in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – what a performance!

The locations are another star feature of the films. Last year we made a pilgrimage to where most of the trilogy were filmed, in and around Almeria, southern Spain. Prior to spaghetti westerns, most westerns were – obviously – shot in the USA. Leone (and others) changed the formula, giving a European twist to the western (though all dialogue was dubbed into English-American) and virtually re-inventing the then dying genre. Notice the white-washed buildings, the dark-skinned, dark-haired peasants, the distinctive algave plants. And notice the miles of polytunnels... hold on, they weren't there forty years ago. No, though lots of the scenery remains virtually unchanged since the 1960s, the main blot on the landscape nowadays is the polytunnels, where fruit and vegetables are grown.

No comments :