Monday, 5 April 2010

National Film Theatre

Going down to the NFT, home to the Bfi (British Film Institute) is probably the thing I miss most about no longer living in London.
It's been spectacularly renovated by Rick Mather Architects and there's now a great new bar and restaurant. Still I'm more than a bit nostagic for the days when the only bar was at the Thames side entrance. Like the Royal Festival Hall it was a place which wasn't trendy exactly, just a meeting place for film lovers young and old. I guess it's still the same but to me the NFT bar now feels a little bit self conscious.

In any case it was the place I first saw so many classic films. It all started with a screening of George Lucas's THX 1138. At each screening there are film notes to take away and I've kept every one of them. They're in a folder and with each film I see the notes go into the file. It's like a chronology of my time in London.
I used to meet friends at the bar and often arrrived early sitting at the high benches which looked out at the Thames, watching the world go by with a glass of wine and soaking up the atmosphere.

The last film I saw there was Hirokazu Kore-Eda's gentle film 'Still Walking'. But looking through my collection of film notes, some of my highlights include Wim Wender's 'The American Friend', Satyajit Ray's 'Pather Panchali', King Vidor's 'The Fountainhead', John Frankheimer & George Axelrod's 'The Manchurian Candidate', Alexander Mackendrick's 'Sweet Smell of Success', Ingmar Bergman's 'Fanny & Alexander', Roman Polanski's 'Chinatown', Martin Scorsesse 'Mean Streets', Terrace Mallick's 'Days of Heaven' and Billy Wilder's 'The Apartment'.

Long live the Bfi!


  1. I'm thinking about it and it's crazy, I wanted to see badly "a singleman", in vo of course & it was not showing in Marseille ! how crazy is that !!

  2. Funny, when I was studying in London I used to go down to the National Theatre on the Southbank - I was there nearly every weekend. Instead of films it was plays, but I have very specialy memories of that part of the city.

  3. terrible to say i've never been there for a film. since we lived in chiswick (a fair long time ago) we always went to richmond or hammersmith. or the ica which had a fabulous chocolate cake.

    love your list of films though. some are my all time favorites. like days of heaven, chinatown and the apartment.

  4. I love it too! Although I admit I've only been in the bar (I usually reside in Scotland)....I just love what it stands for!

  5. Wow. I miss the BFI too. The Royal Festival Hall is also a great place to work/study! Love love love your pics :)

  6. another cinéphile, good to know! ;)
    i loved your text as much as the pictures, your memories and archiving the notes remind me of a similar experience, only in riga... the very beginning of the 90s, annual film festival where we students just LIVED in the cinemas soaking up the film history (there were lots of retrospectives) which we missed in the years before....

    did you send me the postcard, the one you wanted to show me, i haven't got anything yet, just wonder..

  7. oh!!! everytime i see their programme on-line etc...i think cool...great films!! and i like the films you listed as well.

    as a photographer...have you seen "maborosi"? by hirokazu kore-eda...the cinematography is just gorgeous..really working within the latitude of the film!

    (i am very much of the celluoid generation...;))

  8. if jane - no i hadn't heard of 'maborosi'. it looks an interesting film. will check it out if i can!