Director: Julia Marchese
Cast: Julia Marchese, Patton Oswalt, Joe Dante
Spoilers Within: No
This review is difficult to approach objectively. For five years I was an employee at The Prince Charles Cinema – easily the greatest place I’ve had the fortune to work at and one that features at the end of Julia Marchese’s Out of Print. Over the course of the five years, I held many titles, working through the ranks from straightforward ushering duties to office based roles such as Assistant Designer, Manager, Event Manager and Host.
To say that repertory cinema is important to me is a major understatement: 35mm and – in a broader sense – independent cinema has been a prominent part of my life for half a decade, and not only did it bring joy to those hundreds of thousands of customers that walked through the consistently faulty foyer doors, it also kept myself and my closest friends in a prosperous and popular central London job. The cinema – situated just off Leicester Square – was host to daily classics, the majority of which were laced through the projector by a small team of talented projectionists (who inhabit their own, peculiar world, much like the documentary accentuates). Customers would travel from far and wide to see their favourite film or a new discovery, which contained not only their beloved characters or stories but also cinematic history in every join, scratch, and blotch on the frame. This messiness in print is a definitive reason as to why I love the format: those grainy visual wobbles and the patchy dipping of audio remind me that any given print has been appreciated, scorned, enjoyed and criticised by generations before me. To see a film such as Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid on its original format is an enriching experience, one that I wish everyone could share (not limited to just Chaplin, of course).
Everything said in Out of Print is of stark relevance to me, and I will echo its sentiments from now until the end of time, so making this review as unbiased as possible was tough (I most certainly failed in that respect, but at least I plugged a wonderful place). Clearly, the documentary has universal interest for anyone who has ever scoffed at the notion of multiplexes becoming the standard of cinema, and this confirmation of the importance of print is – on a fundamental level – all the documentary needed to be, and the final product succeeds in doing so, and then some.
Content wise, Out of Print is an admirable, if erratic, documentary. As someone who has met and conversed with Julia – even interviewing her for HeyUGuys – I’ve perhaps got a better understanding of her machinations for this documentary than others, however, as much as the film smoothly highlights the importance of 35mm and revival cinemas in an insightful and accessible way (the explanation of how print works is so, so wonderful) it’s also – for the most part – a tad too heavy on Julia’s old employer, The New Beverly. By spending so much focus in the Californian rep cinema, the documentary feels fixated toward a single location, despite its worldwide appeal. This specifically narrowed focus only briefly checks in on other cinemas, and though there is a clear reason behind it (budgetary constraints being a distinguishing factor) it sometimes feels slanted to being more a love letter to the cinema than it does to cinema as a whole.
(As an addendum, I realise that this must have been impossible to avoid. Had I directed a film such as this, I probably would have leaned heavily on The PCC, maybe even more so as my contacts were significantly more limited than Marchese’s. So in this respect, I can fully see the reasoning why The New Beverly features so heavily).
What’s contained within the walls of The New Beverly is a heady mixture of staff members, famous faces, and – arguably the most important – a quaint collection of regulars, each being core components in the foundation of any cinematic community. Every one of the anecdotes felt relatable to me and felt at times both heart-aching and hilarious, certainly because I’ve experienced bizarro London versions of these exact characters in my own time in this environment.
Though the insularity is occasionally disadvantageous to Marchese’s statements, her first feature documentary is an assured one. Due to her finality at The New Beverly (details of which can be read in her in-depth post entitled ‘I Will Not Be Censored’) this could have benefitted from a farther reaching demographic, but as with the fiscal restraints inhibiting travel, it’s much easier to forgo the solitary angle when she’s fighting the good fight for cinema, both repertory and digital. In conclusion, whether you overlook the focus of the film or not, the film industry is an important one, and Julia has directed a delicate plea to the preservation of a frighteningly scarce art.
Note: Those that were hoping for more focus or more inclusion from other cinemas, fear not: Julia has filmed a series of mini-documentaries throughout the UK and Scotland during her Out of Print 35mm tour. Keep an eye out on her blog or Twitter for updates.