Wednesday, 7 September 2011
Mark Kermode - is there a Good Doctor in the house?
One of Britain’s most outspoken, entertaining and best-loved film critics will make a welcome return to Bath on Monday night to talk about his passion for everything to do with the cinema.
Mark Kermode – known to his legions of fans as ‘The Good Doctor’ – has become, for many people, the first port of call about whether a film should or shouldn’t be seen as a result particularly of his highly-popular Friday afternoon Radio 5 Live show with Simon Mayo. The show recently celebrated its tenth anniversary and such is its popularity that the station devoted a whole series of programmes to mark the occasion.
On Monday night, however, Kermode will abandon the studio and take centre stage at the Little Theatre in Bath to talk about his latest book – The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex. And, although he’s famous for his never-ending stream of comments and conversation, it is a night where the audience are very much going to be part of the proceedings…
“What I do is talk for 45 minutes about stuff in the book in a free form way and then I do 45 minutes of questions which is always different every night.
“For me that’s the best part of the evening, the bit I enjoy most. People always raise stuff that’s interesting and that is an extension of the radio show which is very much dialogue between us and the listeners. I would say something, they would reply, email and tweet – it’s all a very interactive thing which I like. So in a way, when we’re doing the radio show it’s kind of like doing it in front of an audience anyway.
“Doing it on stage people just ask you questions directly, people are very up front, people ask very interesting questions, they’re happy to take to task and say you’re wrong about this, you’re right about that and that’s what I enjoy most. The first 45 minutes is meant to be entertaining, it’s not just me standing up and moaning, but I like the second half even better.”
Kermode’s Bath show is part of an 18 date tour around the country talking about his book. He did a similar set of dates to promote his previous book – It’s Only A Movie – which also saw him appear at the Little Theatre and he said that even though he thought he thought he knew what sort of questions people would ask him he was nearly always surprised.
“The funny thing is you think you can anticipate it more than you can – but the truth is you don’t know what’s coming,” he said.
“At first I found that quite worrying, quite a scary thing but then it became very exciting.
“One person might say ‘I saw a Swedish movie in 1975 and the only thing I remember is that it had a bloke who had a bat – what was the movie?’ I would have no idea of course so I might ask ‘does anyone else have an idea’ and a bloke in the audience might pop up and say ‘I know, I seen that – it’s called A Bloke With A Bat’. That’s what happens. I really like it now; you genuinely don’t know where the questions come from. People argue with you and question you – and I like that”.
Kermode’s forthright views on the cinema are well known and loved by his followers and he’s particularly famous for his occasional on-air rants. If you ever want to see examples, just try and look up his rant about the Pirates Of The Caribbean or Sex In The City 2 to see him in full critical flow.
However, he is not just interested in what actually appears on the silver screen – he is passionate about every aspect of the industry he loves. For instance, he is touring mainly at small independent cinemas – he says he really liked The Little last time he visited – and that is why bigger, multiplex cinemas are something he may not instinctively feel as comfortable with.
So, is he against them?
“The idea that I’m against multiplexes in general is like saying I’m against supermarkets,” he said.
“There’s nothing wrong with them in principle, it’s what happens in them and around them.
“Here’s an analogy. If you live in a small village, which I do, and you have a small grocers selling organic veg and along comes a supermarket, well you think great if I want to get my processed food there it’s open until 11pm at night and I can get Air Miles but I can also get my veg at the same time. All very well but anyone who lives in the village knows that if starts competing with the village shops it will put it out of business.
“On the one hand with the multiplexes they’re for many people they are the only thing. Multiplexes over the last ten years particularly due to the 3D revolution have started to treat cinema performances like they’re not real performances. You don’t need a projectionist – you just press go.
“The cinema auditorium has gone from being a place that was close to the theatre in terms of the way in which people would treat the films, properly projected, properly manned auditoriums, watched by an audience who were respectful of the movie into basically a big front room with a video screen and that’s not cinema.
“I keep saying that multiplexes keep firing their projectionists because they don’t need them anymore but it is so sorry to see a big building which doesn’t have a projectionist but does have a confectionery counter. That’s not a cinema – it’s a sweet shop.”
Considering ‘The Good Doctor’ is such an authority on film and has to see so many for his weekly show with Simon Mayo, he admits to having been on a summer detox where he was determined to try and free his mind. He thinks this will be a good thing in the long term.
“The only two things I saw when I was off was Mr Popper’s Penguins which I saw at a nice cinema in Truro and then Super 8 and I’m going to see Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes on Thursday. I literally had four weeks out of the loop so I could detox, I had finished writing the book and the book had gone to the printers. We’d gone through all the tenth anniversary celebrations with Radio 5 and I just needed a break so I just literally spent the four weeks watching nothing other than those two films I mentioned.”
So, if you want to try and catch Kermode out on Monday night then you have a golden opportunity by asking about films that came out in the summer. But be careful – this is a man who famously gives as good as he gets. And you can bet he now knows all about that 1975 Swedish film of the bloke with a bat…
One thing, however, is certain. If you can get a ticket for the Little on Monday or pick up The Good, The Bad And The Multiplex, then you are in for a roller coaster ride of entertainment that will probably be far better than the vast majority of films you will actually see this year. And oh yes it will certainly be better than the awful Sex In The City 2.