Friday, 22 February 2013

Here's Lookin' at You Kid

I've been incredibly busy this week, which is why it's taken me a while to write this post.  Last Friday took me to Casablanca in the French Protectorate of Morroco (via The Troxy in East London) for the latest offering from Future Cinema.

The Vintage News (for whom I work) were lucky enough to have been asked along to attend this amazing piece of immersive cinema - basically the film 'Casablanca' come to life.  As soon as I got to the entrance of Rick's Café Américain (under the bridge with my identity papers clutched in one hand and my camera in the other, to meet my 'contact' as per emailed instructions) the spectacle started.  People were being pulled out of taxis and told to line up with their hands against to wall, while the corrupt Vichy guards checked their credentials. 
 Once past the various be-fezzed guards, a myriad of corridors awaited, replete with Morroccan merchants selling their wares.  Once you walk through the door in to the main hall, it is absolutely breathtaking - the photo below doesn't do it justice.

As soon as we entered, whistles were being blown and men in uniform were chasing a chap in a fedora around the scores of tables, before carting him off to the sounds of Rick (the eponymous cafe owner) reassuring the gathered crowd that all was well.

Episodes like this punctuated the evening, with all the key moments of the film replicated in front (...and behind...and above) us.  There were certain things, such as a call to arms led by the Czech resistance fighter, Victor Laszlo, which I completely missed.  Although it added to the immersive element of the night, it was a bit of a drawback that some vignettes were so short and not in any way 'announced' that by the time you realised you were supposed to be watching something, it was already over.

Tickets were a little pricey at £25, but there was an awful lot going on (even if you did end up missing a fair bit).  As well as the staged pieces, there were roulette tables, a couple of bars (one dedicated solely to cocktails - yep, that's the one I patronised), a popcorn stand and also Moroccan food available (all of which cost on top of the entrance fee).

On stage were various acts, including a slightly bizarre Carmen Miranda-esque singer, as well as a sand dance
 A lovely rendition of 'Perfidia'

Some chorus girls

And an unwelcome chorus of "Die Wacht am Rhein" from the Germans, before they were humiliated by an even louder rendition of "Le Marsaillaise" from the resistance and party-goers with crib sheets.
Victor Laszlo - Vive Le France!

Benoit Viellefon and his Orchestra were the marvellous house band and played throughout the night.  I was fortunate enough to interview Benoit, although because I had to interview him in character, I just ended up asking lots of questions about the Nazis.

 I again forgot to get a photograph of what I was wearing, so this will have to do.  I wore my 1940s red suit (previously seen here) with a 1940s navy blue silk blouse.  I was quite pleased with my hair/hat combo (hat by Valerié), so I took this picture while I was getting ready (sorry for the awfully posed nature of the photo).

When not dashing about taking photos and interviewing French bandleaders, I had a nice catch up with Jenny, Lisa, Fleur and their respective gentlemen (including our friend Hanson).  Jenny, Lisa and myself went to play with the giant snake that was there (oh, had I not mentioned - there was a huge snake!) but sadly I didn't get a chance to hold it as I was on camera duties.

 After all of this, we were then treated to a screening of the 1942 classic (which you may be shocked to hear, but I hadn't actually seen before).  I won't go into a review of the film here, but it was absolutely fantastic seeing it in such an amazing venue, having just spent the last two hours having scenes of the film re-enacted around you.

As always, we made a film about the event, so if you skipped to the end of this post, you can get all the info without having to read!

I can't wait to see what Future Cinema have planned next, and if you can't wait either, they recently extended the run into March, and you can get tickets here (if there are any left!)

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