Mark Kermode's Film Night

The be-quiffed Paul McCartney of film critics charms the Queen's Film Theatre


Cinemagic has got the Queen's Film Theatre throbbing tonight. The award winning organisation, spreading love for the moving image for 21 years, has decked out the QFT bar with a live D.J. (the best kind), book-stalls, information kiosks and, thrillingly, a monster-movie make-up stall. I toy with the notion of getting a suppurating wound, or a bolt through my neck, but there is no time.

Heralded by a familiar two note cello riff, a shark’s fin quiff cuts through the choppy crowd. Mark Kermode is in the house.

(He later apologises for his hair’s lack of kempt, explaining that he had taken a red-eye flight from Glasgow, having chaired The Review Show on Friday. The hair, needless to say is immaculate, as neatly grooved as a shellac long player).

On paper Kermode can be didactic, bullish and dismissive. In person he is all of those things, but also endearingly geeky and voluble. He is passionate because he cares, and he wants, needs, to get his point across. You don’t have to agree with him – but you do have to listen to him. Occasionally this enthusiasm can turn to hectoring, as though a be-quiffed bird were pecking away at your head. But, settled in before an indulgent QFT crowd, he relaxes, and a charming bit of self-deprecation emerges.

'I am the most trusted film critic in the U.K. according to a recent poll,' he declares, 'Do you know what percent of the public trust me? Three!'?Challenged as to what the point of a film critic actually is, Kermode happily confesses that he isn’t sure. He cites a frantic phone-call from Sex and the City 2’s publicists, insisting that he had ruined the film's box-office. He ruined it to such an extent that they are now making Sex and the City 3. ??All of his familiar bug-bears are present and correct, though, amazingly, he barely mentions The Exorcist. 3D gets its usual kicking, as he quotes James Cameron, director of Avatar: '3D is the greatest weapon against piracy!' The most pirated film of all time being, of course, Avatar. ??Andre de Toth, the director of Kermode’s favourite 3D film, The House of Wax, gets the biggest laugh of the evening with his assertion 'This 3D thing, I can’t see it.' De Toth, famously, only having one eye!

Danny Dyer is kicked around the room and strung up by the heels, metaphorically, unfortunately. 'Pimp took £104 at the box-office,' Kermode crows to the room. 'I didn’t destroy Danny Dyer’s career – Danny Dyer destroyed Danny Dyer’s career!'

He rails against Multiplexes for destroying independent cinemas and there is a lengthy dissertation on the use and purpose of cinema projectionists. He quotes Kubrick who said 'projectionists are the only people who get the final cut'. ??There was a certain degree of playing to the gallery here; QFT not only has a projectionist, but the ability to project 16 millimetre films. A good job too, since the film Kermode has chosen to play tonight, The Buddy Holly Story, is a 16 millimetre print. As he warms to his theme he becomes magisterial, declaiming against the digital cinemas that sacked all the projectionists and turned the spiritual and life-enhancing spectacle of the cinema into 'a sweet-shop with a video-screen'.

The Q and A section from the audience is informed, if rather too respectful, and Kermode acquits himself well under eager fan-boy interrogation.

At the end of the evening Kermode tells the story of his meeting Paul McCartney at the Baftas. 'A voice said, “Oh, hello Mark” and I turned around and it was Paul McCartney! Paul McCartney, from the Beatles! And he knew my name!'?The anecdote settles in the room, but doesn’t quite get the response Kermode is after. For the throng assembled here tonight there is no difference in the celebrity of the two men. Tonight, this man was their Paul McCartney!