OMG! Tufnell Park Film Club reaches 100

Founders Wayne Gooderham & Nigel Smith pick their favourites from the first century of screenings

Pub or secret picturehouse? Photo: Stephen Emms
Did you know it was a fortnightly picturehouse? The Lord Palmerston on Dartmouth Park Hill. Photo: Stephen Emms
Every other Tuesday, for the last three years, we’ve shown films upstairs at the Lord Palmerston on Dartmouth Park Hill. And tomorrow (14th July) we reach our century with Woody Allen’s brilliant 1992 film, Husbands and Wives.

Husbands & Wives is the next film being shown. Photo: CC
Husbands & Wives is the next film being shown. Photo: CC

Each movie we show is somehow connected to the previous one screened; a perpetual double bill, if you like. After each screening the audience votes between three films linked to the one they’ve just watched to decide what we show next time.

We’ve had highs (last month Wicker Man director Robin Hardy did a wonderful Q&A with our members as part of our tribute to Christopher Lee). And a few lows (the less said about Brigadoon the better). But watching films with an audience is always a wonderful experience, so looking back on our first hundred screenings, these are the ones we’ve most enjoyed.

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Nigel’s Picks

Poster for All That Jazz
Movie poster for All That Jazz

1. The Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

Our first screening was Robert Altman’s The Player. For our second we gave our fledgling audience the choice between three films referenced in The Player: two Hollywood classics, Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, and a post-war Italian heartbreaker, The Bicycle Thieves. That they picked a moving black-and-white neorealist film gave us immediate confirmation that we’d attracted a discerning bunch of people who didn’t mind reading subtitles. And best of all – they came back to watch it!

2. Taking Off (Milos Forman, 1971)

My all-time favourite screening because we’d never even heard of it until Wayne started looking for candidates for an ‘English-Speaking Debuts of European Directors’ themed vote. It’s an uproarious, very 1970s, tale of middle-class suburbanites who lose their daughter to Greenwich Village long-hairs. Our members took a punt on something that sounded intriguing and they loved it as much as we did.

3. All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)

For me the most satisfying screenings are the ones where we show something a bit weird and the audience go with the madness. Nothing can quite prepare you for Bob Fosse’s semi-autobiographical fantasia that sees Roy Scheider on a self-destructive spiral haunted by the Angel of Death (Jessica Lange). With plenty of song-and-dance numbers along the way.

Original theatrical poster
Original theatrical poster for Harold & Maude

4. Aguirre Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)

We’ve found that our members tend to choose films that they’ve vaguely heard are meant to be good but they’ve never got round to seeing. Today more people have seen Werner Herzog getting shot than watched the great films he made in the 1970s. This is another nutty one with such memorable images as a boat inexplicably stuck up a tree and a final scene full of squealing monkeys.

5. Harold & Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)

A film that everyone seems to love and that’s a joy to watch with a group of people. The oddball relationship between a sullen teenager whose idea of a good time is hanging out at funerals and a septuagenarian woman with a zest for car theft is darkly humorous and ultimately very moving. Still not enough people have seen this film.

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Wayne’s Picks

Original movie poster
Original poster for Prick Up Your Ears

1. Prick Up Your Ears (Stephen Frears, 1987)

A personal favourite that I was delighted won our ‘fatal friendships’ themed vote (beating Badlands and Dog Day Afternoon). The life of local lad Joe Orton – as directed by Stephen Frears, from a screenplay by Alan Bennett, and starring Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina – is a truly great British movie which seems to have unfairly slipped under the critical radar. Which is surprising, given the talent involved.

2. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1948)

Powell & Pressburger’s masterpiece. Not only one of the longest films we have screened but also our most popular (we had to raid The Lord Palmerston’s restaurant for extra chairs – and even then one punter opted to sit on the floor rather than miss out.). Some films demand to be seen on the big(ish) screen.

3. Naked (Mike Leigh, 1993)

Perhaps our darkest and most disturbing screening (with Repulsion and The Vanishing snuffling at its heels). Mike Leigh’s finest 90-or-so minutes was not to everyone’s taste (there was at least one walk-out) but you can’t please all the people all of the time.

Original poster
Original poster for Naked

4. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Actually, this one wasn’t a barrel of laughs either. Let’s go with Taxi Driver’s geekier less-popular brother instead, The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983). Because as fun as it is to screen The Canon, it’s often the lesser-known, under-appreciated works that prove the most rewarding nights. Now, if only we could show The Color of Money too.

5. The Swimmer (Frank Perry/Syndey Pollack, 1968)

Not the greatest film we’ve ever shown, but certainly one of the strangest and most affecting (see also Local Hero, Harold & Maude, I Know Where I’m Going, The Blue Angel) And any chance to plug the great John Cheever shouldn’t be sniffed at.

Intrigued? Nigel and Wayne show films like these at Tufnell Park Film Club upstairs at The Lord Palmerston, 33 Dartmouth Park Hill, every other Tuesday. Next showing tomorrow, 14th July (Husbands & Wives).  More information here. Read Nigel Smith’s lost history of Kentish Town’s cinemas here.

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