Friday, November 1, 2013

'Future Cinema presents Ghostbusters' at the Troxy, 31st October 2013

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a Ghostbuster.  I dreamed of screaming through the exotic streets of Manhattan in Ecto-1, proton pack strapped to my back, trap in hand, ready to ensnare any free-floating, full-torso vaporous apparitions that were unlucky enough to cross my path.  The world of Ghostbusters is exciting, glitzy, glamorous, archly witty and devastatingly imaginative.  Who wouldn't want to dip their toe in?

Last night I got my chance.  The Troxy Theatre in Limehouse has been transformed into the Sedgewick Hotel, the location of the iconic 'Slimer' capture sequence from the film. It's 1984 and we've been invited to Diane von Shattenberg's New York Fashion Gala.  With Mayor Lenny Clotch in attendance the night promises dancing, dinner and the very latest in haute couture.  Although with the recent paranormal epidemic the more appropriate phrasing might be haunt couture. 

This plague of spooks means that ghostbusting is booming.  Dead is the new black this year, and the names on everyone's lips aren't Versace, Chanel, Armani and Dior, they're Venkman, Spengler, Stantz and Zeddemore.  Everyone has something to say about the Ghostbusters, ranging from protesters campaigning for better treatment of their captured ghosts, petitioners seeking regulation of the unlicensed nuclear accelerators they trot around and the squealing groupies and hordes of press dogging their every move. At the back of the theatre you can meet the guys themselves, take a tour of their equipment, participate in parapsychological research and explain your particular spectral woes.

This is the oeuvre of Future Cinema: taking a film screening and turning it into a bells and whistles full-bore theatrical event.  The idea is that you get immersed in a cinematic universe, and Ghostbusters is their current project.  This isn't just a question of scenery, the room is full of performers playing New York beat cops, big-haired CNN reporters and snooty Sedgewick staff.  But of course the main attraction is the characters from the film: not only the four Ghostbusters, but Dana Barrett, Louis Tully, Walter Peck and so on.  

Janine Melnitz
I've seen Ghostbusters many times, so it's pretty damn surreal standing across a desk from Janine Melnitz and chatting with her about a haunting in my flat. Having a conversation with a fictional character is a dislocating experience, especially as I've had a mini-crush on this particular fictional character for a long time (it's the big 80s glasses and barely repressed rage that does it for me).  Before you know it, and with the aid of some strong ectoplasm cocktails, you've been sucked into the Future Cinema's little pocket of the 1980s.

This 1984 is a caricature, a reality filtered through the lens of Ghostbusters.  A re-watch of the film reveals much that's alien to the modern eye; the heroes drink, swear and smoke like chimneys; one of the villains is an asshole environmentalist and a libertarian business ethic is presented as one of the Ghostbusters primary virtues.  Even our heroes are hugely flawed.  On paper Peter Venkman is a creepy, manipulative scumbag and it's only the infinite charisma of Bill Murray that makes him into someone loveable.  Bear in mind that Ghostbusters being a conservatively minded movie isn't necessarily a criticism, more of an observation that it's a product of its time, a vivid snapshot of mid 80s Reagan-era values.

Winston Zeddemore
This old-fashioned Reaganist atmosphere tied directly into the most interesting part of the night, Winston Zeddemore taking to the stage to talk to us about God.  Within the film, Zeddemore is an unbashed Christian, a position which, let's be honest, makes some sense when your day job is busting people's afterlives.  Still, when he asks us to raise our hand if we believe in God there's a frisson of awkwardness in the audience.  Just four people out of a crowd of hundreds believe in God, (or are happy enough to admit to believing in God in front of their friends).   It's when he asks us to join hands and recite the Lords Prayer that things get slightly uncomfortable.  Sheepishly, everyone trails off into mumbling when we realise we can't quite remember the words.  It was a strange moment, hip young metropolitans meeting sincere evangelical Christianity, the moment where you most strongly feel the 1980s politics and sensibilities that Ghostbusters espouses jarring against the world of 2013.

Then the movie begins, though this isn't a cue for the performers to take a 2 hour break. During iconic scenes people run on stage and pantomime what we're seeing on screen. Lights flash and smoke billows, often our attention is drawn away from the screen to miniature acts of theatre happening all around us.  It's an interesting way to watch a movie; Ghostbusters becoming at times a backdrop for Future Cinema to work their theatrical talents out in front of.  But, weirdly, it's the actual showing of the film that lets the side down.

"Nice shootin' Tex!"
Close attention has been paid to every aspect of scenery, costumes and characters, so it's dismaying that the actual quality of the screening wasn't up to much.  Firstly, the sound was fractionally out of sync with the picture, it's distracting and very annoying.  Secondly, and most egregiously, they slice off the final few minutes of the film as the characters exit Dana's apartment building.  This robbed us of one of my favourite moment: seeing Winston raise his hands in the air and shout "I love this town!".  I get that at this point we're supposed to begin our own party with the Ghostbusters at the front of the stage, but still, if you're going to charge £38 for a film screening, then screen the whole damn film.

Annoying as that was, it didn't spoil a magnificent night.  These Future Cinema events are mindbogglingly complex and intricate pieces of theatre, with close attention paid to every minute interaction that the audience will have.  Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favourite films, one of the few that I consider perfect (I can't imagine any way it could be better). I've seen it countless times, yet with Future Cinema's extravagance coupled with a responsive, happy and well-dressed audience the film came alive in a way I hadn't expected.  Future Cinema always pull something special out of the bag, and any lover of cinema owes it to themselves to attend one of their events.  I eagerly await whatever they've got cooked up next.

Dancing the night away.
Future Cinema presents Ghostbusters listings here.  It's fully booked at the moment but tickets are occasionally released in batches so it's worth keeping an eye on.

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