Cinema: A reflective journal

Jason Still

Still explores notions of the cinematic as a poetic medium, and also as a means of community engagement. Looking back, he charts the ongoing process, immersing himself with local writers and documenting his experiences in a series of experimental poems.


A Sense of Place: Cinematic Centenary Celebrations

“In the darkness at the movies, where nothing is asked of us and we are left alone, the liberation from duty and constraint allows us to develop our own aesthetic responses.” 

- Pauline Kael

“Cinema exists in memories as much as it exists in real shadows.“

- Jacques Rancière

This Must Be The Place!

I love the cinema. I love films too, but the cinema is where the magic happens. This shared experience, in the dark with a group of strangers, eagerly awaiting the story on the screen to consume me, chew on me for a couple of hours and then spit me out renewed and ready to reflect. This is the magic of cinema. This is where the change happens. This must be the place.

I go beyond the nerd, the geek, the film buff; I consider myself a cinephile. I can bore whoever will listen for hours with filmic trivia. I can talk about who directed what, in which year, waxing lyrically about the cinematographer, the composer and their respective influences. I keep lists, ‘best ofs’ and film diaries. Friends ask me for recommendations and many conversations come around to the topic of film, even if they didn’t begin there. I cannot imagine my life without film.

The cinema, therefore, is my home from home. Growing up, I was taken to these picture houses to see all of the family-friendly blockbusters of the time: the Bond films, the annual Disney release and blockbusters (as we knew them in the 80s) like ET and the Star Wars saga. It was a time when, at home, there were only four channels and we had to wait sometimes years before the big releases appeared on our small screens. And we didn’t have a VCR! Consequently, I grew up seeing the cinema as a very special place.

‘At a time when many people feel displaced, unsettled and as if they don’t belong, responses to spaces and place can help to root and rejoin us, both as individuals and collectively.’

The cinema would develop deeper meaning as, throughout my teenage years, it became a place of escape, away from an unsettled home life living in the shadows of maternal depression. Any world seemed better than mine, and if the world depicted onscreen was not better, then at least the story might show that I was not alone in my sadness; somebody somewhere felt the same as I did or was experiencing an element of darkness in their own life. It did not matter that they were actors; somebody must know it to write it. My love affair with the cinema had begun without me realising it, and it has continued to this day.


A Creative Space Of One’s Own

Film reflects our lives ‘more than any other art form. [Films] have been a mirror held up to society's porous face.’ Indeed, Virginia Woolf, a writer whose work is characterised by a cinematic use of both auditory and visual impressions, commented on the power of film. Writing in the New Republic in 1926, she suggested that:

While all the other arts were born naked, this, the youngest, has been born fully clothed. It can say everything before it has anything to say.’

A cinema, then, is both a place of creation and a creative space. Within its walls, ideas are formed and responded to. The screen invites us to engage with new concepts or simply reflect on what we already know - or think we know - asking us to consider our position on specific issues, to re-evaluate how we feel about both the everyday and the fantastical. In fact:

‘No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.’

Undertaking a creative writing residency in a cinema is something I never thought I would ever have the chance - or, indeed, reason - to do. As I make my way through this year of wonderful opportunities, such as meeting professional writers, learning from experts in their respective creative fields, visiting inspiring places and engaging them with fresh eyes, the one thing that has underpinned my year away from the quotidian routine of work, pay bills, eat, sleep and work some more, has been the knowledge that I have this license to enjoy my writing, to write because that is what I need to do, to try new things, to experiment.

A Brief History Of An Extraordinary Place

‘Why would you want to stay home and watch a little box? How could you call that entertainment, alone in your living room? Where’s the other people? Where’s the audience? Where’s the magic? I’ll tell you. In a place like this. The magic is all around you.’

- Harry Trimble, The Majestic (2001)

In this modern world of on-demand entertainment, I can’t help feeling that something special is being lost. Modern home viewing may have surround sound, but it doesn’t replicate the atmosphere of the collective viewing experience: the laughs, the screams, the gasps. A cinema, as Harry Trimble tells us in The Majestic, is a magical place and should never be taken for granted.

My local community cinema is one hundred years old this year. It opened in 1916 and operated as a garrison theatre for troops stationed in the area, before showing films to the public from 1920. The current owner, Kevin Markwick, has been a regular filmgoer since he was two years old! His father, Roy, bought the cinema in 1964 and managed it until his death in 1994, by which time his son had taken control of the reins - and reels - developing the Picture House into the thriving family business that it is today. There have been many changes to the building in that time and one can feel the history on entering the small foyer. In fact, a brief look at the history of the building demonstrates the way this cinema has reflected both social and political change throughout the years, responding to the world in which it found itself. I found myself thinking about the films that bookended the significant moments of change for the Picture House. As admissions dwindled in the seventies, Mr Markwick Sr. drew up ambitious plans to develop the cinema into a two screen venue. The final film shown on that single screen, in December 1978, was Death Wish, a controversially violent tale of revenge. The second screen opened three months later with Every Which Way But Loose, a Clint Eastwood comedy about a trucker who moonlights as a prize-fighter. The remodelled showpiece screen one re-opened soon after, with Robert Powell starring in the classic innocent man on the run story, The Thirty Nine Steps. This twinning, says Markwick today, almost certainly saved the Picture House from closure. Like his father, Markwick has always sought to improve the cinematic space, improving and updating the technical aspects of sound and vision whenever possible. In February 2000, the Picture House proudly opened a third screen with a performance of celebrated British director Danny Boyle’s The Beach. Boyle would go on to mastermind the cultural extravaganza that was the intensely cinematic opening to the London Olympic Games in 2012.

Back On The Big Screen

Kevin Markwick is as passionate about film as he is about his cinema. A comprehensive research project, charting the history of this community landmark is underway to mark the centenary year, led by local historian Nick Prince. However, the focal point of the centenary celebrations is, appropriately, a year-long festival of film screenings introduced by film-lovers, journalists and film-makers. The choices reflect the diversity and beauty of cinema and its impact on our shared culture, its power to move the spirit, to uplift and horrify, to address issues and, ultimately, transcend the human condition. As French auteur Godard remarks,

‘Cinema is something between art and life. Unlike painting and literature, the cinema both gives to life and takes from it. […] Literature and painting both exist as art from the very start; the cinema doesn’t.’ 

Where better to begin this celebratory cinematic journey than with Mr Markwick’s own choice - the festival opener - Stanley Kubrick’s influential masterpiece of existential time travel, 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which an imposing black monolith provides some sort of connection between the past, present and future. In its alarming (and prescient?) denouement, a space mission speeds toward disaster as the spacecraft’s on-board computer system, named HAL, begins to exhibit strange, even murderous behaviour, leading to a human versus machine finale.

Using his cultural connections developed over years in the business, Mr Markwick has programmed ten more films to follow his opener. The second centenary film was chosen and introduced by respected film journalist - and presenter of Radio 4’s weekly Film Programme - Francine Stock. Alexander Mackendrick’s Sweet Smell of Success was her choice, a tale of a ruthless rumour monger who will stop at nothing to fill his widely-read column with salacious gossip. This grimy tale is fiercely contemporary, despite being sixty years old, and was perfect selection in that it demonstrated the way that cinema not only reflects its own time but how some things never change, or, perhaps, that we never learn?

Future screenings include a Roger Corman horror double-bill introduced by comedian and radio presenter Robin Ince (The Masque of the Red Death and X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes), composer Neil Brand will sing the praises of the archetypal noir (Sunset Boulevard), film writer Charles Gant will enthuse about the award-winning ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, local documentary film-maker Jerry Rothwell will introduce Coppola’s intensely atmospheric ‘The Conversation’ and journalist and writer Catherine Bray has chosen a film considered by some critics to be the finest Britain has ever produced, Powell and Pressburger’s ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp.’ As winter approaches and the year draws to a close, journalist and broadcaster Matthew Sweet and playwright Patrick Marber will select their own favourites to round off the festival and a memorable year of classic films returning to the big screen, where they were intended to be seen and where they belong.

The Best Laid Plans…

As writer in residence, my challenge was threefold. First, how best to use the written word to celebrate this community milestone? Second, how could my placement support the cinema’s mission? Third, how could this project develop my own writing and which creative muscles would I get to exercise in the pursuit of an eventual outcome?

The initial email that I sent to the cinema in February was met with an extremely enthusiastic response. A week later, I sat down with Nicolette Howard, the Picture House’s marketing manager, to discuss our aims for the project, in the stylish surrounds of the cinema’s sister cafe and restaurant. (Again, the cinema management is always looking for ways to develop the movie-going experience. What better way than a post-film discussion over a drink or meal? Ticket and meal deals are available!) The question: How could a creative writer support the centenary celebration? Our initial meeting centred on the ideas of memory and reflection. The cinema had already engaged the aforementioned local historian to glean information from the archives of the local press and historical society, and it was agreed that I could organise memories into a supporting text for the eventual publication that would bring together the life-story of the cinema in one place. We listed ways that the information could be gathered and how social media might be engaged to both develop community interest and bring out those cinema related anecdotes and stories that surely lay, gathering mental dust, in the memory banks of local moviegoers.

My first engagement was to monitor a live tweet-cast, co-hosted by a local arts enthusiast, that ran one evening at the beginning of March. The manager, Kevin Markwick, was live on-line to answer questions, both planned in advance as well as spontaneous enquiries that emerged from the discussion. Everyone - well, at least those interested in a local cinema centenary - has a favourite film, and the response to ‘Which film would you screen for the centenary and why?’ sparked great interest and got people tweeting. It was the perfect start, leading in to the upcoming festival screenings, and it allowed me to measure the potential of an open-forum such as Twitter.

The cinema maintains an on-line presence in the form of its heavily-trafficked Facebook page, used mainly to advertise forthcoming attractions. It is also used as a portal for cinema-goers to ask direct questions and receive quick responses. The use of a linked ‘centenary’ page through which to gather memories that could feature in the centenary book seemed obvious. Unfortunately, the quality of the initial response was poor with regard to ‘historic’ memories, with streams following the anecdotal line of ‘how smelly’ it used to be, the poor service and how horrible (in the past) it was to work there! The page certainly hadn’t been intended as an opportunity for people to moan. The more positive responses centred on people identifying themselves in a few archive photos: “the line for Grease went around the block!” As I was about to give up on this idea, a story of an impending birth and how - thanks to the closeness of the community - child-minding was taken care of while the mother-to-be took herself up the road to the hospital, appeared. This was a start, but a handful of memories does not make a book. A limitation of this research method appeared to be that those - mostly older - members of the community (the ones with the potentially more interesting memories) aren’t regular social media users. I would have to widen my search.

Supported by the cinema, I sent emails to the local film society, the district preservation society and the local newspaper, both in print and online. There was no response. After two weeks I sent a second, follow-up, email. Again, there was no response. Why did nobody want to contribute to a record of their local history? Did they not realise how lucky they were to have this amazing cultural community centrepiece on their doorstep?

The Twist

Fortunately, ticket sales for the initial centenary screening were excellent; the film sold out! I spent the hour before the screening in the heart of the cinema next to the projection room, in a meeting with Nicolette discussing how to move forward. We decided to keep running with the ‘memories’ idea, whilst awaiting a meeting with the historian, and look for other ways in which my writing could support an element of the year’s events. The next development would be the one that truly excited the writer within me: I would document the filmic elements of the centenary - a poet in residence - responding to each of the centenary screenings. Armed with my phone and notebook, I prowled the foyer prior to, and after, the film, gathering words, responses, expectations and reviews to weave into a poem that followed the narrative of the film. At this point it became apparent that this was going to be a year long endeavour - not just forty hours - but the chance to write with purpose was too good to miss.

To Make Films Is To Be A Poet - Pier Paolo Pasolini

Why choose poetry? Poetry and film are inextricably linked. The iconic Italian director Pasolini also said, in discussion about his craft as a film-maker:

‘the cinema is substantially and naturally poetic. […] A cinema sequence and a sequence of memory or of a dream […] are profoundly poetic.’

Researching poets in residence, I read about the Poetry Places scheme, in which poets were installed in diverse places such as football grounds, high street stores, prisons and a cinema, where, for example, poet Brendan Cleary [took] up a post in one of the oldest working cinemas in the country, the Duke of York's in Brighton, where they [hoped] to put poems on screen between films.

The Duke of York’s Cinema was the first purpose-built cinema in the city and is acknowledged as the oldest such cinema in the UK. In celebration, Cinecity 2010 put together a year-long series of events, documented and celebrated in a publication that drew together elements of historical research, photographs and memories. This publication ‘captures a sense of what this cinema has meant to so many,’ and is precisely what the Picture House in Uckfield is attempting to replicate. As mentioned above, a similar comprehensive history is underway and could use the Cinecity publication as a template, with historical details interspersed with a collection of memories - the hundred most poignant anecdotal snapshots could make a fascinating centrepiece, for example. The key aim, of course, being to highlight the impact this small, yet striking building has had on the Uckfield community, in the same way that the Duke of York's has become a focal point of Brightonian culture.

‘Memories and reminiscences […] are an important part of the cinema’s cultural heritage. Reading [them] you begin to understand why the Duke of York’s is so important to our city and its cultural fabric.’

In a recent seminar, Mr Cleary was very happy to discuss his work as ‘Poet in Residence’ - his brief, purpose, output, etc. - and it was during this discussion that I realised that the poetry I had written in response to the centenary films could be weaved into a narrative that told a story not only about this cinema but also a story about cinema and the elements that make it so special.

Inspired By The Sense Of Place: My Creative Response

Movies are ‘central to the poetic imagination’ extols the editor of the Poetry Foundation’s ‘Poetry Goes to the Movies’ celebration, and have influenced many poets who have ‘engaged with movies in a variety of ways [for example] by re-creating the experience of being in a movie theatre […] by appropriating dialogue from [a particular film] or by merging memory and identity around the experience of watching a film. Film has undeniably reshaped the poetic imagination.’

The poems I have written have borrowed all three of these themes, drawing, for example, on poems by Frank O’Hara (The Film Industry In Crisis), May Swenson (The James Bond Movie), Kurt Brown (Silent Film) and Eileen Myles (Movie).

My initial intention was to convey the sense of place in which the cine-magic happens. Cinema is about the whole experience, not just the movie. There’s the buzz of the foyer, the box-office interaction and the anticipation of the queue through to the roll of the end credits. Consider the foyer as a community of minds: we are all there for the same reason, even though we will have varying expectations and motivations. As poet John Burnside says, ‘the lyric [in poetry of place] is the point of intersection between place and a specific moment.’ He continues:

‘all poetry of place, while it appears to concern itself with landscape, is as often about identity and community […] the poem of place speaks of the relationship of the individual to a specific place at a particular point in time.’

Having written about elements of the cinema-going experience in my poems ‘Box Office’, ‘A Night at the Pictures’, ‘Foreplay’ and ‘Warning’, I turned my attention to specific films. I began with the centenary screenings, listed above. These films have been chosen to encapsulate the artistic vision and technical brilliance of the film-makers, as well as to celebrate the idiosyncrasies and individual adorations of the movie-lovers that introduce them. When writing my own verse for each movie, I began with the film’s narrative and found that the style of poetic response came naturally: the use of page space for the interstellar ‘Open the pod bay doors, HAL!’ and the claustrophobic Manhattan skyline for ‘A Cookie Full of Arsenic.’ During the editing and redrafting process, I considered the content and tone of the ‘celebrity’ introduction and the audience reaction in the pursuant Q&A session.

In researching the combination of memory and identity, I became interested in the work of contemporary British poet James Nash who, along with colleague-in-verse Matthew Hedley Stoppard, has produced a poetic anthology celebrating the experience of cinema-going by documenting the stories of some of the seventy cinemas that have (mostly) disappeared from the Leeds area in which he lives. ‘Cinema Stories’ includes memories of film-goers dating back to the 1930s - precisely the type I am attempting to collect - alongside his response to favourite films. It is a celebration of a shared, yet personal, experience. Having enjoyed his work, I contacted Mr Nash directly and found him happy to discuss his inspirations, his process and some of my poetry! A further exchange of emails left me with the empowering sense that I was truly part of a real writing community: a key reason for embarking on this MA in the first place.

This feeling was enhanced during a background search for fictional stories set in cinemas. Having managed a very short list of cinema-set fiction (a short story by Graham Greene and a Clive Barker tale of horror) I sent a request out into the world of Twitter. Even though my list did not expand in the exponential style I was expecting, the most rewarding result was a conversation - still ongoing - with first time author and pop-up cinema owner, Hattie Holden Edmonds, whose book ‘Cinema Lumière’ has the idea of cinema and memory at its heart: What if someone had secretly made a film of your life? Again, I was thrilled to find an author who wanted to discuss her influences and share ideas, as well as engage in cinema appreciation.

Taken as a whole, my creative response celebrates the experience of going to and being at the cinema, as well as reflecting on some of the changes that the passing century has witnessed, such as the disappearing face of the projectionist. My final set of poems is something of an experiment. The mix of film and poetry is not new, yet it appears to have gone out of fashion. Some are trying to revive the format, combining original verse with old silent films or creating trailer-length short films that combine verse with visual elements, such as James W. Griffiths’ ‘A Solitary World.’ Renowned ‘film poet’ Tony Harrison, suggests that, ‘the scansions of the screen and the prosodies of poetry co-exist to create a third kind of mutually illuminating momentum.’ In ‘Previews’ I have taken the dialogue from six cinema-set films to create a poetic trailer for each. I wanted to create a form of ‘cinematic poem’ in which the cinema building is integral to the film’s narrative and, in some cases, is a character in its own right.

Post-Credit Sequence

This project has been a real eye-opener. As a writer I have had to adapt, change tack, chase leads to dead-ends, arrange interviews and remain positive when things didn’t go to plan. Indeed, the apathy the cinema has encountered in the local community regarding memories should ring alarm bells, because celebrating people doing things together in communities is not only valuable, it is essential, as Gauntlett says, for when it doesn’t happen, people become

‘isolated, strangers to their neighbours, not communicating - then society enters a downward spiral […] really falling apart, with higher levels of crime, distrust, depression and illness.

Community cinemas are increasingly few and far between. This centenary celebration is more than just a romantic trip down memory lane. It is an opportunity to celebrate the past, present and future of a space that should never be taken for granted. Cinemas are places for neighbours to stay in touch and for bringing people from other neighbourhoods to a shared location. Cinemas are ‘an anchor for local businesses’ and a place to create ‘social relationships through the power of its message, uniting people in love affairs, anger and awe.’

Cinemais community.

‘In the sky of the cinema people learn what they might have been and discover what belongs to them apart from their single lives.’

- John Berger



1 Stengel, Wayne, Talking about Pauline Kael (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015) p195

2 Davis, Oliver, ‘Re-visions: Remarks on the Love of Cinema: Jacques Rancière', Journal of Visual Culture, 10(3) 2011: 294-304

3 Talking Heads: This must be the place/Speaking in Tongues (1983) Home - is where I want to be/ But I guess I'm already there/I come home - she lifted up her wings/I guess that this must be the place

4 Moriarty, Jess & Aughterson, Kate, ‘Place-Based Arts: Introduction’, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 8(1) 2015: 3-5

5 Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus (London: Owen, 1975) p13

6 Laurence, Patricia Ondek, The Reading of Silence: Virginia Woolf in the English Tradition (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001) p104

7 Woolf, Virginia, ‘The Movies and Reality’, New Republic, August 1926

8 Berger, John, ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’, Sight & Sound, 1(2) 1991:14 Ingmar Bergman, as quoted in Berger’s article which discusses comparisons between cinema and painting, cinema and theatre and the nature of the cinema screen.

9 Roud, Richard, Jean-Luc Godard (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) p15

10 Sitney, P. Adams, The Poetry of Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2014) p21

11 Kennedy, Maev, ‘Rhyme to go home’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

12 Ibid.

13 Brown, Tim; Duffy, Sarah; Gray, Frank, eds., The Duke’s at 100 (Brighton: Cinecity/Screen Archive South East, 2010)

14 Ibid. p5

15 Ibid. p94

16 Editor Unnamed, ‘Poetry Goes to the Movies’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

17 Ibid.

18 Burnside, J, ‘Poetry and a Sense of Place’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

19 Nash, James & Stoppard, Matthew Hedley, Cinema Stories (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2015)

20 Edmonds, Hattie Holden, Cinema Lumière (Cowfold: Red Door Publishing, 2015)

21 Griffiths, James W., ‘A Solitary World’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

22 Harrison, Tony, Collected Film Poetry (London: Faber, 2007) p30

23 Gauntlett, David, Making is Connecting (Cambridge: Polity, 2011) p131

24 Forsher, James, The Community of Cinema, (California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003) p1

25 Ibid. p1

26 Berger, John, ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’, Sight & Sound, 1(2) 1991:14


Berger, John, ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’, Sight & Sound, 1(2) 1991:14

Brown, Tim; Duffy, Sarah; Gray, Frank, eds., The Duke’s at 100 (Brighton: Cinecity/Screen Archive South East, 2010)

Burnside, J, ‘Poetry and a Sense of Place’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

Davis, Oliver, ‘Re-visions: Remarks on the Love of Cinema: Jacques Rancière', Journal of Visual Culture, 10(3) 2011: 294-304

Editors, The, ‘Poetry Goes to the Movies’, <> (accessed 10th April 2016)

Edmonds, Hattie Holden, Cinema Lumière (Cowfold: Red Door Publishing, 2015)

Forsher, James, The Community of Cinema, (California: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2003)

Gauntlett, David, Making is Connecting (Cambridge: Polity, 2011)

Griffiths, James W., ‘A Solitary World’, <> (accessed 28th April 2016)

Harrison, Tony, Collected Film Poetry (London: Faber, 2007)

Kennedy, Maev, ‘Rhyme to go home’, <> (accessed 10th April 2016)

Laurence, Patricia Ondek, The Reading of Silence: Virginia Woolf in the English Tradition (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001)

Mercia Cinema Society, Researching the History of Cinemas (S.I.: Mercia Cinema Society, 1991

Moriarty, Jess & Aughterson, Kate, ‘Place-Based Arts: Introduction’, Journal of Writing in Creative Practice, 8(1) 2015: 3-5 

Nash, James & Stoppard, Matthew Hedley, Cinema Stories (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2015)

Rosen, Marjorie, Popcorn Venus (London: Owen, 1975)

Roud, Richard, Jean-Luc Godard (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Sitney, P. Adams, The Poetry of Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2014)

Stengel, Wayne, Talking about Pauline Kael (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)

Woolf, Virginia, ‘The Movies and Reality’, New Republic, August 1926

Films Referenced

Behind the Screen (Charles Chaplin, 1916)

Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988)

Last Action Hero (John McTiernan, 1993)

Majestic, The (Frank Darabont, 2001)

Purple Rose of Cairo, The (Woody Allen, 1985)

Sherlock Jnr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)

Creative Response – 10 Poems Celebrating the Cinema Experience


A Night at the Pictures

Impressions of reality and fantasy, the reel

gives way to new digital sleekness

that splits the curtain’s pregnant pause,

to spread silver dreams

Images blossom, irises bloom and

the popcorn hounds miss their mouths,

so rapt in the dramatic fizz

they suck in through eager pupils

Scenes painted by pixel raconteurs whose

shots of grandeur are downed

in one by gaping mouths,

volunteering for silent study in the dark


Anticipation squeezes my veins


the screen, teasing

deliberately keeping its secret a moment longer

Awaiting emotional penetration

I want to swallow the lights

the screen, tempting

good things come, to those who wait

Box Office

“Where would you like to sit, Sir? The screen is here, the grey seats are available…”

steel teeth scissor the passport to my future self

(a visa for travel

through a realm of dust and code and daydream)

she smiles as she slips her special gift across the glass

awaiting escape

within arms many times battered

by screams and laughs

I sit ready, without a seatbelt

chatter dims in the nearness

of a world outside mine

soon to be consumed,

remembered and lived

Previews of Coming Attractions


Prepare the scene!

Even the inter-titles are in on Chaplin’s joke

So much squeezed into a small space

Pull the traps - Oh, mercy - we know what’s coming

All the senses are licked clean

he has his custard pie and gets to eat it

A cloth cap hides a cheeky kiss

Saved by the girl, he saves the day

Behind the Screen - Charles Chaplin 1916


“Don’t try to do two things at once

and expect to do justice to both.”

Unless you’re Buster Keaton!

Comedy gold action begins

falling asleep at the projector

he enters a film within a film

Reel escapism! Real, death-defying stunts!

Sherlock, Jr. - Buster Keaton 1924


What’s it like out there?

Tom Baxter has come down off the screen!

Love at first sight doesn’t just happen in the movies

A chance to escape: she just met a wonderful new man

  • - he’s fictional, but you can’t have everything.

The Purple Rose of Cairo - Woody Allen 1985


Alfredo! You can start!

From the lion’s mouth, young Toto’s dream

Momentary capture

The world will belong to the kiss

Cinema Paradiso - Giuseppe Tornatore 1988


The screen’s greatest action hero

To be, or not to be?

Not to be! BOOOM!

His biggest fan

a magic ticket that brings him closer to the action

than he ever dreamed

A world bigger than life

and better than real

but beware: in this world the bad guys can win!

Last Action Hero - John McTiernan 1993


We called it The Majestic

any man, woman or child could buy their ticket

walk right in

enjoy the show

and in they’d come

entering a palace

like in a dream

like in heaven

maybe they had worries and problems out there but once they came through those doors

they didn’t matter any more

and d’you know why?

Chaplin, that’s why

and Keaton and Lloyd

Garbo, Gable and Lombard

Jimmy Stewart, Jimmy Cagney

Fred and Ginger

they were gods and they lived up there and that was Olympus

The Majestic - Frank Darabont 2001


brought in on a wave of expectation

slowly, slowly the river meandered

to safe harbour, your cargo stashed and accounted for

oceans plied for commerce

honest trade from a hard day’s work

pictures true and won fair

check starboard and aft

port vigilance, weary traveller

for there may be pirates among us!

Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL!

This is not a film

it is an experience, a state of mind

suspended animation

beyond time and dream and fear

from the dawn

of man and beast

and stars

violent protection of

basic motivations

justify violence

serene and silent

bones in free fall

tumble upwards

a moment of peace before

paranoia and wonder

combine in one voice

our own creation

beyond wires

our own destruction

light-fields pulsate

frequencies unparalleled

the pioneer can only watch

raging against age

an image of the child

leaves the circle open

sleep outside the vacuum

a cold room

ornate symmetry

infinite home

the monolith observes

systems sailing into line

bones can crumble

skin can slip

horizons stand firm


A Cookie Full of Arsenic

Silver script flickers over paper streets and noise and gruesome gossip

Everyone has a secret to sell

Lucifer lives on the tenth floor, behind a glass of double measure

A cobra out of grass; mean eyes; framed contempt

Jovian wrath judging scurrying satellites

Touting fear by the junk-load, buying no peace in return

Style destroys timid truths

In plain sight he steals bites from a burnt Apple

For why should anyone be happy in this city? The warden stalks

his prison without bars; he covets the vicissitudes of fortune

Barkeepers pour and shoot glances

At girls who preen and prowl for whisky whiskers

Mouse Mouse no more, only the best of everything is good enough

There will always be one looking for the bigger game

and not just tips from the purrs

Stay fast, man of forty faces, none too pretty and all deceptive

Evil spits sticky tar - mind your feathers!

Fingers fumbled and bitten, wrought with rumour

Pith sticks in poisoned gums and blood is never far from those who worship

at the feet of success

Its sweet smell soon clothes the next in line. Watch the byline!

Here comes the lure: the deal that drips of desire

Sing Sweet Heart

Breaking out of the river bag, she licks her wounds

breathes in life and grabs choice from the burning hoop

No hate, no pity

Just clear skies


No One Here Gets Out Alive

A mystery cloaked in sticks

Gifted a rose; a prophecy

The day of crimson deliverance is at hand

Within Prospero’s protection

The rich cavort and laugh in wine

While the poor slice poisoned flesh

Convex dreams in candle-sleep

An assassin’s footstep

Masked by the clock’s silent chime

Over rooms of seven colours

Darkness and decay and the Red Death

hold illimitable dominion

Midnight belongs to the faithful dancer

Death has no face

Until he takes yours

The Projectionist’s Paradox


his job

is done well

then nobody knows

he is there: the shadow artist.

A loving eye through a small glass

window contemplates luminosity. Physical heat

cooled to the finger push of a button. The paradox of

his dream is such that his dream job is now redundant. The

thousandth show looks as good as the first: his driving ambition through

nitrate decades of burnt fingers and dust. No more rewinding. No more checking.

The ritual of the screening. (All artists have their own signature.)

How they dim the lights. How the music is played. When the spotlights go down. When the curtains part. It was his moment. Some of us knew he was there. The final link in the multi- million dollar chain.


This year the pictures are bigger than ever!

The classics shine on the silver screen. Now showing:

Snow White and Sherlock Holmes

Fairy tales for young and old, special effects filled

blockbusters cut a swathe through the box office.

Powerful roles for women: stars and writers,

heroines, rude, riotous, driving fast. Though the men may shout,

the Danger Girls are the real force behind the camera.

Provocative, ambitious, innovative

Oh yes, 1916 was the year that the pictures got big!



Jason Still


brightONLINE student literary journal

21 Jun 2017