Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cinema of the Damned

The destruction of Manchester's past continues, even on a weekend when Martin Parr's photographs of the city graced the Guardian; this time with yesterday's half-demolition of Cine City in Withington. Not sure when it started; always a little suspicious when they start demolishing something on a Saturday - so all that's there at the moment is the outershell of the ground floor, and the sign "Cine City." It's been closed, as has the next door White Lion, for some time, and though no reprieve was ever likely, it's more than sad to see it go. In a sane world, this would have been redeveloped as a South Manchester arts centre, but no, I'm sure we'll see it replaced with some bland residential shed, that will offer nothing distinctive to the local urban landscape. "Cine City" was a wonderful place to see a film - they used to have to change the reel half way through - me and my friend used to always smuggle a few cans of lager in to the late night showings - and I saw plenty of great films there, most notably that most modern of movies, "Natural Born Killers." Whenever anyone on Coronation Street went to the cinema they seemed to film it outside Cine City, since in the warped nostalgic logic of the show, the idea that Wetherfield residents would go to the multiplex like anyone else, simply defied belief. It's added to a certain melancholic anger I've had all week; not so much the hoards of Rangers fans drinking all day on Wednesday, but the inevitability of both the violence, and the public handwringing afterward, as the city indulges football, yet remains timid in the face of art. I've always liked Martin Parr's photographs, but the collection in the Guardian, though all well-composed, had an inevitable aurra of the tourist, up in Manchester for a week, almost a total opposite of the immersive technique that has made so much of his work classic. Yet, as the city continues its veneration of my beloved Joy Division/Factory Records/Tony Wilson (this week alone: the Tony Wilson experience in honour of his memory, Joy Division the documentary, and, Man Utd fans in O'Sheas singing "Giggs, Giggs will tear you apart again" during their league winning game against Wigan) its fascinating that Salford's the Ting Tings have just entered the UK charts at number one; probably the first genuine breakout act to really make it big from Manchester since Badly Drawn Boy. I didn't get tickets, but one of his - and Twisted Nerve's - iconic gigs was in Cine City. The Ting Tings grew out of the hotpot of artistic endeavour happening in the "other" city of Salford's Islington Mill. If the city had really wanted to honour Tony Wilson, then perhaps developing Cine City - a step away from the original Factory records address in Palatine Road - in some creative way, would have been applicable. It joins the list of ghostly venues in the city, alongside the Hacienda, the Boardwalk, the Banshee and many more before my time. I sometimes think of the ghosts that have been released by this destruction/regeneration as not being freed, more dissipated - into the air - and the spirit with them sent elsewhere, perhaps to Salford's Islington Mill, or another place, where the true possibilities of a creative city can make itself known. In the seventies Martin Parr decamped to Hebden Bridge where the cheap accomodation and mystical landscape led to it becoming a bohemian enclave away from the urban sprawl. These architectural deaths are totems, yet the modern creative spur - its X-factors, its "Mamma Mias", its international festivals - obscures any real renaissance. The city continues of course, with talk of Carol Ann Duffy or Simon Armitage - both some time of this parish - as the next Poet Laureate, and with a 12-year old from Chethams music school, the youngest ever BBC young musician of the year.

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