· culture ·

I wanted to mention the cinema where we saw 'ètre et Avoir' yesterday — the Ulitmate Picture Palace. This cinema (know locally as the 'UPP') has had a number of previous incarnations, the most recent of which was the 'Penultimate Picture Palace', or PPP. I don't know what they will name it if the current owners sell up — they haven't really left a great deal of wiggle room with the 'Ultimate' tag.

The UPP is a funny cinema. It's pretty old, and is in the pre-multiplex style, with a single, largish screen. There's no foyer, and no popcorn, fizzy drinks or ice cream — it's a case of 'bring your own'. You buy your tickets from a tiny kiosk outside the cinema. The tickets themselves are the kind of numbered tickets you get at village fetes for the raffle, but I don't suppose that they get hordes of people trying to get in without paying. The UPP always seems on the point of financial and structural collapse. Wise people keep their coats and gloves on in the winter months (there doesn't seem to be any kind of heating), the paint is peeling, and the upholstery is rather torn. There's a lingering smell of damp, and films are often accompanied by the sound of a tap dripping somewhere. I once saw the film 'Salmonberries^1^' there, which was set in Alaska, and it was like having some kind of virtual reality system — I actually felt as if I was in Alaska.

So why do people go to the place? Well, they have an eclectic and adventurous programme of films, with all kinds of independent, foreign and just plain wacky films, as well as more mainstream offerings a few months after their first release. And it has character — it's not some corporate chain which tries to extract the maximum amount of cash from its customers by flogging them snacks and inflicting endless adverts on them. You go to the UPP to watch films — end of story.

^1^ An excellent film staring kd lang about a foundling in Alaska passing herself off as a man to work in the mines, and falls for an East German woman who befriends her.