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15th February 2022

It’s not a regular cinema, it’s a cool cinema: Valentine’s at Victoria Baths

Karen’s boobs say there’s a 95% chance you’ll be cold
It’s not a regular cinema, it’s a cool cinema: Valentine’s at Victoria Baths
Photo: The Village Screen Pop up in Manchester Victoria Baths

DAY 1- 10th February

On February 10, we stepped into the historic building Victoria Baths located on Hathersage Road for a screening of the classic chick flick Mean Girls to celebrate this year’s Galentine’s Day. The building itself is mesmerising, the pool area had been completely transformed with fairy lights, large heart decorations and the pool filled with rows of deck chairs (thankfully without the water still being there). The entryway was a corridor of light, reminding us of 42s – but this Thursday we were swapping sticky dance floors for ornate tiles. 

After choosing our seats we went to explore the food and drink area. This room was filled with independent food stalls from Vietnamese bao buns to loaded fries and of course a vintage popcorn machine. The bar even had themed cocktails for the night featuring a ‘ReGINa George’ and ‘Cady’s Cosmopolitan’. 

Photo : Jess Walmsley

We arrived a little early for the screening and halfway through our cocktails decided it was definitely getting a bit chilly. We had read on the website that it was advised to bring warm clothes, but being Northern we assumed this was advice for those who can’t handle a little breeze. 

We were very wrong. 

Photo: Jess in the main swimming pool at Victoria Baths, by Ella Robinson

Thankfully we were able to hire a blanket for the steep cost of £10 with a £5 deposit returned to you at the end of the night. I really don’t know if we would have survived the screening without the blanket. It was definitely daunting having the person sitting next to me wrapped up in a ski jacket, beanie, gloves and a blanket. He was ready for an arctic mission, not a chick flick screening.

Photo: Jess Walmsley

The movie was one we had seen countless times, yet this time it felt a little out of place, especially on a night reserved for appreciating your friends. Mean Girls is exactly what is says on the tin, about bitchy high school drama, dumbing yourself down, cheating your friends to get a boy and changing who you are just to fit in. It didn’t spread the message of supporting your friends or loved ones and for a Valentine’s event showed a warped view of relationships and falling in love. Even in the final Spring Fling scene, which was supposed to signify redemption and everyone coming together, the emotions felt as plastic as the tiara Cady broke. The film itself seemed to have lost its magic in an age of tackling negative portrayals of body image, ableism, race and sexuality. 

We thought a film such as Wild Child would have shown a better representation of sticking by your friends in chick flick form. But Mean Girls appeared to have been chosen for the Prosecco mums, rather than the students, who were whooping enthusiastically at every mention of drugs or sex. The enthusiastic audience served as a reminder of just how quotable Mean Girls is, laughing at jokes before they’d even been said on screen.

Photo: A very cold Jess, by Ella Robinson

The screening itself, albeit freezing, was very well done. The sound was crystal clear and echoed round the baths and the lighting made it feel very magical. However, the temperature affected the general vibe of the night. At one point we realised we could see each other’s breath! To the lovebirds out there who may be thinking you could cuddle for warmth Bella and Jacob style – no, the deck chairs essentially acted as the ultimate cock block, forcing you to sit separately. 

But for the singletons who were embracing ‘galentines’, it wasn’t much better, with repeated declarations of love being shown on the screen before the film started. We couldn’t decide whether they made us feel even more alone or if the “Roses are red, violets are blue, out of all the sharks in the sea, I’d always choose you” messages gave us enough of an ick to stay single ’til next year.

Overall, we’d highly recommend the venue … in summer or with a full duvet and dressing gown attire. The film? It’s more fun to quote than to watch.

DAY 2- 11th February

Words by Giorgia Ravera

On the weekend that welcomed Valentine’s (and Galentine’s) Day, amidst the papier-mache red hearts, pink LED glows and candlelights, the astonishing Victoria Baths, hosted by The Village Screen pop up cinema, opened its doors to fans of romantic classics. On the Friday night, blanket in hand, I rushed to join hundreds of people who patiently queued at the entrance of the building, waiting to watch Quentin Tarantino’s early scripted True Romance.

After having been warmly welcomed by the event staff, I was introduced to the spectacular (and spectacularly cold) rooms of the edifice, which have in all respects maintained their original design: changing rooms, light green ceramic tiles, wooden seatings, and a weird 1952 public Jacuzzi named an Aeratone. Suddenly feeling as if I’d been transported back to the 1910s, I quickly  reached one of the main spaces of the Victoria Baths. Originally a men’s swimming pool, today, a huge hall converted into a food market, where guests had the chance to taste a rich variety of yummy street food, from vegan shawarma kebabs to sticky chicken bao buns, this was really a sight to behold.

Half an hour until the start of the movie. As most of the food stands closed shop, guests started swarming towards the main event. With a half-spilled glass of wine in my hand, I joined them to the most spectacular screening room I’ve ever seen: a 25 yards x 40 feet emptied swimming pool filled with cosy deckchairs and overlooked by an ornate wooden balcony. Scooching up to be seated closer to the main stage, I took a second to admire the old changing cabins facing the pool, the grand glass ceiling and the themed decorations around the screen. The silver balloons spelling ‘You’re so cool’, one of the main lines of the movie, matched my impression of the whole setting.

Photo: Jess Walmsley

The film started. Couples squeezed closer to each other (as much as one could in a deckchair), people wrapped up in their blankets and the background chatter was soon topped by the echoey voices of ​​Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette. The film follows Clarence and Alabama, a married couple who find themselves involved with smuggling cocaine among gangs’ shootings, love scenes and whimsical moments.

The movie is witty, enthralling, and at times really sweet, a true gem for fans of Tarantino who would easily recognise his hand behind the gory scenes and moments of grotesque hilarity. Tarantino’s writing is classically off-topic with coarse humour being delivered, among others, by future ‘darlings’ of the American director Samuel L. Jackson and Brad Pitt. Gary Oldman, almost unrecognisable in his dreadlocks and deep scars, dominates the first part of the movie, delivering, in my opinion, one of his best and scariest early-years performances.

Overall, the energy of the mise-en-scene and the swift oscillations between moments of action and banter makes True Romance an enjoyable piece. There is something missing, however, in the lack of dare and courage in the directorial choices of Tony Scott, making you think ‘If only Tarantino made this’.

Although the film was no great shakes, it was entertaining nonetheless, and the astonishing location of Victoria Baths together with the romantic atmosphere made the whole experience memorable, and definitely worth repeating.

Ella Robinson

Ella Robinson

Editor-in-Chief | SPANC Best Reporter (Highly Commended) 2022 and SPARC Best Journalist in the North 2022

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