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R.I.P The Film Shop

June 28, 2015

I discovered today that The Film Shop, a little curiosity on Stoke Newington Church Street in East London is closing down.

Russian selection at the old Broadway Market branch. Thanks @tpaleyfilm for the pic!

Russian selection at the old Broadway Market branch. Thanks @tpaleyfilm for the pic!

It was a DVD rental shop that stocked an unrivalled amount of world cinema and otherwise hard to find stuff, as well as the usual Hollywood fare and old classics. Basically, any film anyone could ever wish to watch. They had a free print out of their own list of top 100 films that they urged you to watch. I still have that list and, to my shame, have only been able to tick seven off, and now, with the closure of The Film Shop I’m going to struggle to tick off any more.

I was overjoyed when I first went down to Broadway Market and discovered the sister branch of the Stoke Newington shop. Here was a place that could feed my addiction to Eastern European cinema and facilitate one’s desire to binge on one director or actor or country’s films over the course of a weekend, like the Easter weekend I spent watching Tarkovsky films and ended up dreaming of Solaris-style motorways. The Broadway Market branch sadly went the same way months ago. I’m not sure what’s replaced it, but rumours circulate that the Stoke Newington shop is to be turned in a coffee shop… another coffee shop on Stoke Newington Church Street that will no doubt have five hispters loitering behind the counter, battered school chairs to sit on and the usual gamut of not-that-interesting cakes and vaguely fancy sandwiches for sale. Yet another place to spend almost a tenner on a coffee and cake. Great.

I only happened to find out about The Film Shop’s closure because I went there today intending to rent some Ingmar Bergman films out for a long overdue binge. I felt bad because I hadn’t visited for a while, but initially, as I reached the door, I was pleased to see it was really busy… then I realised it was really busy because they were selling everything off for a few quid each. And their extensive selection of Bergman filmed had already been pilfered. I consoled myself by purchasing, amongst other things, two Andrey Zvyagintsev films, which means I’ve almost got his whole back catalogue as I picked up a battered copy of The Return (brilliant film, should have been on their top one hundred) when the Broadway Market branch sold all it’s stock off. Where else could you even buy Zvyagintsev’s films?! My favourite memory of The Film Shop was renting out a rather obscure Macedonian film (Before the Rain) that garnered the impressed remark ‘Not many people rent that one’ from the very film-savvy guy behind the counter. They had stuff like Bela Tarr’s seven hour long Satantango, which I was plucking up the courage to rent. It’s rather a lot of pressure on the old bandwidth to stream a seven hour film, if indeed it can be streamed from anywhere.

As I said, The Film Shop also stocked a massive range of contemporary Hollywood and mainstream movies and it’s probably those films which they needed to rent out to keep going, as Bela Tarr fans are likely in short supply even in Stoke Newington, but I guess everyone’s streaming that Hollywood stuff, and not many people are paying for it.

It’s incredibly sad that The Film Shop is closing. It had been there for eighteen years. It’s hard to access world cinema or art house cinema as it is, even with sites like BFI-player and MUBI, and it’s especially hard to access a film-maker’s back catalogue even if you catch their latest release at an indie cinema, or even harder old foreign and even old British films.

But we’re living in this wondrous modern age, in this glorious era of technology in which just a handful of technology companies wield incredible power. Google are aiming to take control of cities, I hear. Don’t get me wrong, the internet has many valid uses, of course (I’d have no way of publishing this rant if it wasn’t for the internet for one thing), but… for sure, as well as spiralling rent costs, the internet has massively contributed to The Film Shop’s demise. Like it’s contributing to the demise of cinemas, and even Hollywood, and it’s the internet’s fault small bookshops are struggling and people expect authors, filmmakers and musicians to give their work away for free, and the internet’s fault that psychopathic twats can easily spread their vile hate messages on social media and inspire people to do terrible things, and the internet’s fault that eleven year olds can access hard-core porn. I digress.  But really, are we just going to let all this happen until our Goolge-controlled high streets contain only coffee shops with shabby chic furniture (or betting shops and chicken shops if you ain’t been gentrified), and all the artists have starved?

I don’t really know what the answer but on days like these it feels like modern life is a bit rubbish.

R.I.P The Film Shop of Stoke Newington and Broadway Market, you will be sadly missed.

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