After its refurbishment and re-opening in June of this year, the Hyde Park Picture House is back in action, welcoming audience members and delighting them with the latest releases in the world of independent and individualistic cinema.
I went along to their special, one night only screening of the short film Strange Way Of Life from Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, starring Pedro Pascal and Ethan Hawke.
Before stepping foot in the venue, it’s already clear that there’s a certain buzz about the place, from the guests engaged in stories about the cinema’s past as well as discussion about the latest releases on show at the building’s two screens. The audience outside is a mixed bag of younger and older people, all here with a common interest – arthouse cinema, and it’s fantastic to see so many people excited about auteur-based filmmaking.
Once inside the venue, you are greeted by a welcoming team ready to scan your tickets and advise you where you need to go, meaning there’s no struggle in finding your screen and seats; it’s all done for you. The venue is a warm and cosy space: well lit, sophisticated and modern whilst still retaining the charm I’m sure it had when it first opened in 1914. If cinema snacks are your thing, there’s a mixed array of decently priced, tasty treats on offer, from popcorn cones to olives and pretzels.
Once inside at the main screen, you’re presented with comfortable seats, a good amount of leg room and a redesign that is gorgeous to look at and, at times, can draw your attention from the screen for how striking and well- decorated it is. Once the film began and the lights dimmed, we were treated to 32 minutes of romance, action, adventure and tragedy.
Strange Way of Life centres on two former lovers, Silva and Jake, played by Pascal and Hawke respectively, reconnecting, the former crossing the desert to see the latter, but his motives may not be as romantic as they first appear as Hawke’s character Jake is on the hunt for Pascal’s Silva’s son, Joe.
As Pedro Almodóvar explains in the post screening Q+A, the film is about these two characters, one who is very direct and blunt about his love and the other who cannot open himself completely to that life. The film itself was a testament to how much can be achieved in such a short runtime and showed me, as an audience member, how a short film can be just as striking as a feature. The Q+A that followed was extremely interesting and enhanced the viewing experience of the short, without taking attention away from the feature as a piece of work in itself.
Based on the reaction from the audience and the buzz that returned to the foyer after the screening, I believe that these special events will continue to be successful at Hyde Park Picture House and the venue itself, alongside the staff and everything else that makes a cinema trip worthwhile, will become a hub for cinema discussion, reaction and engagement for a long time going forward.
There are plenty of unique upcoming showcases and specials at the Picture House in the next few weeks, and based on my experience, I would strongly recommend you see what they have to offer.
Feature photograph by Ollie Jenkins.