The First Rule of Film Club…


…is we must all talk about Film Club.

Above, we see Derek Malcolm, one of Britain’s finest film critics, who presented the first series of The Film Club on BBC2 on Saturday nights in bygone days. My friend Colin McLaren calls him the Walking Talking Stephen Hawking, for reasons which I guess are slightly apparent. I once insinuated my way into a conversation between Malcolm and Bertrand Tavernier at the Edinburgh Film Festival. I say “into,” but mainly I just listened. Couldn’t keep up. Those guys are hardcore cinephiles.

Sadly, the next year, when Malcolm phoned up to make arrangements for his annual visit, he said “This is Derek Malcolm,” and the festival person taking the call said “Who?” — not being rude, I think they just wanted the name repeated so they could write it down, but of course the inference was there that they hadn’t heard of him — and Malcolm hung up and never came to Edinburgh again. Or so I’m told.

Despite all this shameless badmouthing, I’m fond of DM and  The Film Club was a great thing, double features every week of great cinema. In series two we had celebrity guest presenters, a different one every week. Linda Myles presented an Ophuls double bill, Richard Lester introduced LES RIPOUX and TOUCH OF EVIL (“I had nothing to do with choosing this double bill, so I feel happy to say that I think it is, in the words of that other great entertainer of our time, General Oliver North, ‘a really neat idea'”) and Alex Cox introduced something or other so well they gave him a permanent gig of his own, Moviedrome.

Our own Film Club is a more modest affair. On Monday I’ll blog about THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER. Hopefully a fairly long, in-depth piece, but not anything special. The special bit is YOU — hopefully lots of you have seen the film now, or will have seen in by then, so on Monday and the following days we can really tear into the thing and have a jolly good discussion about it, even better than usual (and I am never less than delighted and impressed all to hell with the level of discussion here).

I think this might be a good thing to invite my students in on when term time starts up (a few of them do visit anyway) and the thing will hopefully be educational and fun for all of us. I’ll be delighted if this brings a few lurkers out of the woodwork, causes some occasional Shadowplayers to turn up again, and generally leads to some stimulating debate.

11 Responses to “The First Rule of Film Club…”

  1. This whole business makes me want to punch somebody.

  2. Really? What you want is FIGHT Club…

  3. Hey, fisticuffs and film appreciation, what’s the difference?

  4. Tony Williams Says:

    Yes, those were the days. Derek Malcolm knew his films and was not as condescending as Barry Norman nor as irritating as Jonathan Ross.

    I always read his GUARDIAN columns with interest.

  5. Part of that conversation I listened in on: “I’ve decided to like True Lies…” a sentence full of hidden meanings: he didn’t really like it, but considered it less awful that most of the big releases; there was pressure, perhaps unspoken, to positively review the occasional blockbuster…

    He was slightly stiff as a TV presenter (you can kind of see it in the pic), but it was great to have somebody who really knew what they were talking about. That would never be allowed now, when the key thing is to stick a celebrity’s face onscreen. The “celebrity guest presenters” I spoke of on Film Club really weren’t celebrities in that sense at all, they were experts.

    Fisticuffs and film appreciation? They both leave you seeing stars.

  6. ——-
    “I’ve decided to like True Lies…” a sentence full of hidden meaning”.
    Indeed. Plus, I think it reflects a certain humility and openness towards film and life. It’s a loving attitude.

    I was reading Derek Malcolm’s top ten. He inludes two of my own favourites, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live and a Time to Die, and Satyajit Ray’s The Music Room.

  7. He wrote a top 100 for The Guardian (I think collected as a book) which was all very good stuff, he has excellent taste, and he’s seen practically everything.

  8. David Boxwell Says:

    I watched D&DW last night, so I will be taking part on Monday at my computer naked from the waist up.

  9. David Boxwell Says:

    Before Derek Malcolm, there was the lovely luvvie Phillip Jenkinson, I remember from my time in the UK in the 1970s; I wonder what became of him. . .

  10. Just as long as you’re not writing in the bath, that’s how Marat died. Dropped his laptop in the suds, I guess.

    Y’know, I might have been in touch with a friend of Jenkinson. She had a vast collection of off-air recordings and BBC archive stuff (which she charged the earth for) and some of the film docs were labelled “With Phil”. Don’t think I saw him. I dimly remember Tony Crawley, and Clive James used to do film shows (Lindsay Anderson would record them and edit CJ out).

  11. […] a quick note to point you in the direction of David Cairns’ new Film Club initiative, which will premiere on Monday, August […]

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