Review: Spirited Away at Edible Cinema
It’s not enough to just go and see a film in London these days; if it’s new it has to be in 3D, if it’s old it has to be seen in an 18th Century Courtyard or atop a rooftop. Sometimes these experiences can be worth the extortionate pricetag – for the last couple years Secret Cinema in London has been doing-up warehouses and converting otherwise bland interiors into something altogether other with great success. Considering that the amount of revenue lost through piracy is an ever-increasing concern these should be welcome innovations for those leasing out the copyright. They’re also, however, often expected to be pulled-off through the sheer kitschy idea of the experience alone, and this afternoon’s special showing of Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki’s masterpiece of eccentric imagination, is taking place in the modern heartland of pretentious slackerdom: Shoreditch.
This, however, is not a kitsch, lazily put-together set-up with garden chairs in a cellar with paint peeling off the walls; it’s taking place in the Aubin and Wills cinema, certainly one of the best place to see films in London, with its juxtaposition of plush, spacious and deeply-set chairs in just a living room-sized space. Instructions are simple – for every occasion when the patron is asked to eat from one of the 8 taster boxes a corresponding light flashes at the corner of the screen. Surprisingly these notifications neither detract nor distract from what’s happening on-screen. It’s not an idea that hasn’t been tried before – the Odeon in Holloway is still serving intra-film meals, but the idea of a film-centric menu is one that’s never really taken-off. It’s hard to see the concept failing in this set-up.
There’s also, of course, the fact that Spirited Away is a truly remarkable film where suspension of disbelief is a prerequisite, something that’s quite rare in films marketing themselves as suitable for adults as well as children: viewers are won-over by the imagery rather than met halfway with innuendo. As such, it’s difficult not to see the written-down contents of the taster boxes as a means of refining, rather than simply adding to, the viewing experience for a strictly adult audience – alcohol included. Drinks on the menu tend to fall flat, other than the introductory cocktail: though anime films often feature smoking, drinking and sex Miyazaki has never glorified any of them on-screen – there’s also something a little perverse about tasting a character’s tears. Which taste of alcohol. Just to reiterate that suspension of disbelief.
Retrospectively, the taster boxes feel as much like an addition to the film as they do a warped culinary education session – about a third of the way into the film it becomes clear that the intentions are more to mimic the film than provide a necessarily delicious-tasting menu. What’s important, however, is that Miyazaki’s childish innocence appears to have genuinely filtered into the minds of the organisers; there’s a careless sense of ‘throwing it together to see what sticks’ in some of the food, like the Bath Salts taster box, a swizzle-stick dip with coriander stalks in it. It’s the kind’ve irreverent outlook that resulted in the first coke float. Some work wonderfully – the seaweed in the ‘Fried Newt’ chocolate taster gives a bittersweet flavour that sweet-chilli-chocolate SHOULD taste like, rather than an aftertaste of burnt embers. Then there’s also the charcoal cake, which tastes pretty much exactly like that juxtaposition suggests.
For comparative immersion in film the fixed-menu is a noble idea, and certainly less tacky than 3D glasses. For adherence to its art there’s certainly little to fault with Edible Cinema – sometimes it’s the intentions that count as much as the final product. As an opening selection it’s a promising one