The term ‘cult cinema’ evokes images of teenagers wearing red-and-blue-paper 3D glasses, scoffing handfuls of popcorn and washing it down with oversized cups of soda pop. Whole audiences jumping with fright, only to be laughing uproariously moments later. Weirdos dressing up like characters from movies they’ve seen hundreds of times, midnight screenings. The first time you felt it was totally okay to yell at the screen. People with sleeping bags tucked under their arms for 24-hour movie marathons; double and triple features; intermissions.
For Jose Maturana, the founder of Valhalla Social Cinema, cult films are about, “Re-capturing the first time we see a life-changing film. Because when we’re kids, every movie is life-changing and seeing them again, so many years later, with like-minded adults must drive the desire to go to our cinema.”
The old Valhalla Cinema in Westgarth (and Richmond) was the Melbourne home of cult. These cinemas managed an uninterrupted monthly run of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1978) and The Blues Brothers (1980) and a bi-yearly 24-hour sci-fi marathon. They also hosted festivals and retrospectives devoted to a huge variety of themes or directors such as New Russian Cinema, Jacques Tati, Werner Herzog, James Bond, Astaire and Rogers, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks or Akira Kurosawa. High-brow art cinema played alongside B-grade schlock and neither felt out of place. But it all came to an end in 1996 and many of Melbourne’s film nerds were left without a home. After 15 years without a 24-hour movie marathon, Maturana was jonesing so badly for a bit of cult cinema that he started his own cinema dedicated to it – Valhalla Social Cinema, named as a tribute. With no relation to the original, he and his wife (as well as a handful of volunteers), channel the spirit of the Valhalla in a transient, portable, pop-up cinema.
For its latest program, which opens this Friday May 30 with the Tarantino classic, Reservoir Dogs, Valhalla will debut its new space at Electron Workshop in North Melbourne. The program runs until July and features cult favourites such as Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, Richard Elfman’s Forbidden Zone, a Studio Ghibli double feature and the Australian horror masterpiece, Wake in Fright.
Cult film isn’t a genre, although there is always some element of the weird, wonderful or woeful at play. It covers both films of exceptional quality and those that are so bad that they come full circle back into the realm of great. It’s those films where you can quote lines out of context and everyone knows what you are talking about. That’s what Valhalla Social Cinema is all about.