Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Friday, 24 June 2011

May The Old Course Be With You

Bad Teacher at The New Picture House, St. Andrews

What’s this? A bonus stop on the ‘tour of the indies’?

Taking in mainstream cinema?


Well, yes, actually. With the usual merry band of cinema-goers split up due to the mundane logistics of finding enough time to journey past those ‘Welcome to Scotland’ signs where they dominate the motorway verge, the Tour took on a slightly different complexion for its most northerly offering. ‘@Jimvincible’ and ‘@M8iekay’ had already made their trip to Filmhouse in Edinburgh (enjoying what, in Le Quattro Volte, must surely rank as one of the best films about goat farming ever made), so it fell to me to introduce my better half to the joys of putting as much effort into selecting the venue as selecting the film to be watched.

Before our own visit to Filmhouse, we took the opportunity of spending a day in St. Andrews, home of the New Picture House (NPH) cinema. The town itself might be one of the most relaxing places we’ve ever experienced (even when inadvertently walking in front of the opening tee-shot of someone who had shelled out £130 for the privilege of playing the Old Course…). The fine, calm weather was doubtless a significant factor in creating that relaxed air, but anywhere dominated by golfers, students and money is never going to feel like a fraught and fragile melting pot of social inequality and recession-inflicted pressures.

Even so, with the possible exception of golfing attire, nothing is forced down your throat in St. Andrews, and there is a little bit of something to suit everybody. Nowhere is this better exemplified than the B. Jannetta ‘Gelateria’, which would be the only place to go if something were to be forced down your throat – a myriad of genuinely interesting and inventive ice creams, including such delights as ‘brown bread’ flavour (which we didn’t try) and ‘apple pie’ flavour – which we certainly did try and found to be magnificent, like a Willy Wonka creation where an entire dessert is contained within one easy-to-eat product.

And then there was the cabinet containing the ice cream cakes…!

Given such a context, it’s not difficult to understand how the NPH has found its niche in St. Andrews. As a former theatre converted to house three screens it offers all the individuality you could want from an independent cinema, including the option to sit up in the circle if your film of choice happens to be showing on the main screen. With the lack of an immediate multiplex neighbour, and a student community right on the doorstep, it also offers the very latest releases. Hence, in return for me getting to choose our viewing at Filmhouse, we watched my better half’s choice of Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel.

Were it not for the presence of Segel then I would likely have approached the film with more pessimism than I did, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a genuine favourite and Segel is a likeable comic actor. Bad Teacher was entertaining enough, somewhat inconsistent, but raised a few chuckles – most of them where Segel was involved. Maybe the venue aided the experience (or maybe it was a quiet Monday evening and we just fell lucky), but despite being in the tiny Screen 3 and the film therefore being relatively well-attended, there was no disruption to the evening’s viewing and the people on the row in front of us even ate their MASSIVE tub of popcorn quietly.

Against expectations, then, the NPH proved that there is a place for a mainstream comedy on the ‘tour of the indies’. Whether that was a triumph of venue over film choice could be debated over several stiff drinks – frankly, it doesn’t really matter. It does, however, demonstrate the potential for an experience apposite to the conclusions drawn after the recent visit toBroadway in Nottingham.

That has been the beauty of this tour – finding different cinematic offerings, sometimes in unexpected places. Certainly, I had no idea that a town on the east coast of Scotland, famous the world over (mostly for golf, slightly less for its University, not at all for cinema) and 300+ miles from home, would give such a notable offering.

Viva the tour! If only all the stops had such great ice cream shops…


  1. "a myriad of"...?!

    Hang your head in shame.


  2. Splendid! Trust me to make a mistake in using a swish-sounding word, and then have it so graphically highlighted, on the most read post of the week!

    Now, let me just point this gun at my other foot...