The Mile End Genesis is putting on its top hat

I'll admit it. I could have been feeling more relaxed.

The journey back from work had taken longer than anticipated and I'd already missed one showing of The Artist at the Genesis in Mile End last week for similar reasons. So when I flew into the cinema foyer five minutes after the programme was supposed to have started, shoes pinching slightly from an extremely fast walk, there wasn't really time to digest the reasons why my ticket seemed over-the-odds expensive: just enough time to register that it was and feel vaguely annoyed that they'd put the prices up again.

There always seemed to be something at that place, my stressy, rush-hour Tube head was telling me. I mean, if I'd wanted to pay £10 to see a film I could have got off the Underground in the middle of town couldn't I, instead of whistling straight through to Mile End? And - I thought as I belted down the labyrinth of corridors to my screen - I was lucky that they hadn't tried to wrestle my bag off me on the way in this time, on the off-chance there was some food in it. They often appear to think at the Genesis that they have a right to prevent you taking your own food and drink in to the cinema, including bottles of water, and that it's worth antagonising the customers about.

And breathe.

After all, I'd made it in time for the start of the film - thank god - and really that was the important thing.

But when I went into cinema 5 - which has been renamed Studio Five - there was more.

They'd ripped out the seats and replaced them with sofas - which I had to admit looked quite inviting - and, much to my confusion, there was someone at the door trying to talk to me about something, when all I'd anticipated was slipping into a seat in the dark and watching a movie. Plus - ooh! - there was trendy wallpaper and what looked like a bar inside the cinema.

I might not have been the ideal customer at this point and definitely said something about the price of the ticket, which provoked a lengthy and slightly exasperated explanation from the young man when all I was trying to do was work out if I'd missed the start of the film. But after a minute or so of talking, he said the magic words "complementary glass of wine"... at which point the cloud lifted. Simple things :-) By which I mean me, obviously.

For the Mile End Genesis is trying something new and brave along the lines of the thing I was waxing lyrical about in this blog.

After I'd settled into my extremely comfy sofa, had a sip of wine and a chance to realise that I hadn't missed the start of the film after all, I also realised that there was a menu on the low-slung table in front of me that included felafel and that actually an extra fiver was a small price to pay for a completely different order of experience. I mean, how lovely. Gradually it became apparent that I was really enjoying myself.

And what a movie.

The Artist had been beckoning ever since Jean DuJardin, its male lead, and Michel Hazanavicius, the director, laid on the Gallic charm at the Baftas by telling the British judges how clever they were to give an award for sound to what is, basically, a silent movie.

And oh... it's great. It made me want to see it again, under similar circumstances very soon.

Jean DuJardin is facially a bit like both Errol Flynn and Gene Kelly. And the wonderful dance routine at the end made me think of Fred and Ginger in Top Hat. Whisper it, but I think Berenice Bejo might be a slightly better dancer than the lugubrious Monsieur DuJardin. But I'd certainly watch the whole film again just to make sure.

And I'd also like to say that I've always liked Jack Russells, which have often struck me as intelligent, useful little things. And that I was prompted to make this evening's trip to the pictures partly because I was impressed that someone I work with had recently met Uggie.

Walking away afterwards I felt wonderfully entertained not only by the movie but by the cinema's new thing. For the slightly down at heel, gas-central-heating-smelling Genesis seems to be upping its game and aiming much higher than it has before. Putting on its top hat, if you will. And I wish it the very best of luck.

So in the manner of a tribute, I give you the sublime Fred and Ginger in Top Hat. For The Artist and for the Mile End Genesis. I hope the experiment works.

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