With the high prices and talking, mobile phone using, noisy eating patrons of Odeon and the like continuing to frustrate, the appeal of alternative movie venues continues to grow. Along with the large scale outfits such as Luna Cinema and Secret Cinema, regional events designed to attract the enthusiastic moviegoer are starting to flourish. One of the best of this new breed of film events is the Rochester Kino.
Specialising in dedicated screenings of cult classic films, and well ahead of the new trend for themed film events, Rochester Kino is now in its eighth year. Offering showings in London at Belgrave Square, South Kensington and Stepney Green, at its spiritual home of Rochester in Kent the Kino has recently moved to a new location, the Sun Pier Café. Located on the banks of the River Medway, the view from the Café takes advantage of the Historic Dockyard and Upnor Castle to the east, and Rochester Cathedral and Castle to the west. It’s an impressive locale, and the Café’s third floor layout is warm, welcoming and modern; an idyllic and inspiring spot for likeminded film enthusiasts to gather and enjoy the very best of the big screen.
Heading to their second showing of the year, Rochester Kino bucked the traditional trend of Alien franchise screenings by hosting the rarely shown Alien 3 (1992). Also new for this year is a unique take on pre-film entertainment. Supporting local musicians, Kino are inviting Medway bands and performers to play a fifteen minute set before each showing, with music inspired by the themes and tone of the film for that evening.
For Alien 3 Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society provided a brilliant prelude. In trio form for the night, the threesome offered the songs When (a melancholy swipe at corporate greed; take that Weyland Yutani), Solitary (a minor chord exploration of life support technology; a nod to Ripley and her penchant for decade long hypersleeps), and an encore love song to leave the audience on a cheerier note. The music was an excellent mood setter, invoking the emotions of Ellen Ripley's long and arduous journey through the Alien saga.
H.R. Giger ... scaring us from the ceiling this time.
A nice introduction to the main event provided some fascinating background information on the much maligned third Alien film, before the lights were dimmed and the projector was fired up. With a sound system to rival any commercial cinema and a fine projector / screen combo, audience members were free to pick any spot amongst the rows of chairs, the comfy Chesterfield sofas and armchairs enticing a number of patrons.
Alien 3 has lived a dogged existence during its twenty five years. I first saw Aliens (1986) as a wide-eyed eleven year old during Christmas 1991 and knew it was a masterpiece; it remains my favourite film to this day. My anticipation of a follow up was incalculable. I eventually got to see Alien 3 when a school friend taped its Sky Movies premiere and ferried the film to me on VHS like precious cargo. I sat in front of my fourteen inch portable waiting to be wowed; I ended up spitting a curse on director David Fincher’s family. Offing Newt, Hicks and Bishop in the first five minutes made the two hours we spent cheering for them in Aliens immediately redundant.
Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society get us in the Fiorina mood.
It’s taken some years to forgive Fincher. The turmoil of Alien 3’s inception and filming has been well documented and rightly shoulders much of the responsibility for the film’s questionable outcome. Rochester Kino’s screening completed the healing process for me though, and for the first time I watched Alien 3 and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
There are still some missteps; the CGI versions of H.R. Giger’s xenomorph look awful, especially in comparison to the practical alien effects Fincher mixed it with, the cat and mouse finale is equal parts thrilling and confusing, and the decision to kill off Ripley’s supporting trio of heroes so soon after Aliens ending will always be a mistake. Despite this there is a lot to enjoy. Alien 3 was a marquee release when it hit screens on 22nd May 1992, which is astonishing considering how grim and nihilistic Fincher’s film is. You will never see another summer blockbuster made that is so pessimistic in tone. It is also a beautifully photographed film, the orange glow of the foundry tunnels, the festering greens and browns of the prison block, the sickly yellow of the infirmary. It might even be the best looking movie in the Alien franchise.
Dimming the lights for an Alien film; it never fails to invoke the vapours.
The mostly British cast are on brilliant form throughout and provide Sigourney Weaver with some wonderful verbal sparring. They also offer nuggets of dark humour to add just a little relief from all the gloom, ‘This thing is really pissed off!’. Weaver herself remains effortlessly watchable, her Ripley performance inexplicably missing out on an Academy Award across the original three films. Fincher also wrapped the then trilogy of Alien movies on an audaciously downbeat note; for all of Ripley’s struggles, the Fiorina furnace she dove in to would be broken down and unceremoniously sold for scrap.
Rochester Kino offered a plethora of additional touches to make the evening special. Sigourney Weaver and Brian Glover facemasks were offered to every patron for those who wanted to the full Fiorina 161 vibe, a welcome sachet of candy was on every seat for sweet-toothed viewers, and the bar area had a mood setting Alien inspired light display backed by soundtrack snippets from the trilogy of films. It was as well thought out and encapsulating an evening as a film fan could wish for.
The brave and the bald at SPH, Sun Pier House.
Chatting with the organisers during the evening it was easy to see why; Rochester Kino is run by film fans for film fans. Organised ostensibly as a non-profit venture, ticket prices are kept low (£5 for adults, £3 for students) just to cover the cost of venue and license hire. The event organising itself is a wonderful coming together of movie fans who share their skills (be it sound tech, light and design, promotion, etc.) and free time to put on the sort of film event film fans will enjoy. It made for an all-round sociable atmosphere and as Rochester Kino newbies we received the warmest of welcomes from everybody in attendance. Despite the gloomy conclusion of Ellen Ripley’s adventures (her dubious ‘reincarnation’ in Alien Resurrection(1997) notwithstanding) we left the Sun Pier Café on a high, already marking our phone calendars for upcoming events.
With future monthly screenings planned well in to 2017, including The Princess Bride (1987), The Thing (1982), Blade Runner (1982), and Batman Returns (1992), the future of fan dedicated events is in rude health both in Rochester and London. For more details on upcoming events and contact details for more information on how to get involved in the Kino ethos, visit Rochester Kino’s website at www.rochesterkino.co.uk