Resurrecting the cinema gimmick that is ‘Odorama’ with new purpose, Scratch ‘n Sniff Cinema paired sensory stimuli with a cinema classic for a unique, immersive screening at Hub M3 on the border of Salford and Manchester City Centre. Working in collaboration with Hazard MMX and Charlotte Gould of the School of Art & Design at the University of Salford, the third outing in this occasional series rolled into view to present an alternative method of viewing classic British film.
Hub Gallery and Innovation Space on the edge of Manchester and Salford was transformed into TUB for two days on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th July 2010 as we presented My Beautiful Laundrette (cert. 15), an iconic and Oscar-nominated drama of the growing attraction between two young men in the mid-1980s; one, Omar, a young British Asian (Gordon Warnecke), and Johnny (Daniel Day Lewis), a member of the National Front.
Instead of presenting in formal cinema environments, Scratch ‘n Sniff Cinema prefers to respond to site-specific space using portable equipment and choosing a title to respond to the location or reason for presentation. In prepping the audience for olfactory clues, the viewer becomes acutely aware of the filmmaking process… background activity, action and dialogue adopt new meaning in a dot-to-dot treasure hunt for related vapours.
Past screenings have included Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl and Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves, with smells ranging from underarm deodorant, boiled sweets and animal dung. The film title on this occasion was chosen in response to Hub’s recycled origin as a former shop unit, sited between a café and daycare centre; the perfect position for a underwear-rinsing emporium.
Charlotte, students and staff at the School of Art & Design created rows of impressive cardboard washing machines (with a frankly worrying attention to detail on the switches, buttons and coin slots), tiled prints of further machines for adjacent walls and a small mountain of 3-D powder boxes in fluorescent orange and green to decorate our temple to instant hygiene.
As patrons arrived they had the option of receiving free, 1980s inspired cocktails with a choice between a Tequilla Sunrise or a Blue Lagoon, plus retro bags of vintage sweets from the same decade (and beyond), including white mice, kola kubes, fizzers, flying saucers, sherbert pips, fruit salads, blackjacks, palma violets, spearmint chews, love hearts, coconut mushrooms, candy shrimps, cola bottles, fizzy dummies and skullcrushers.
Each seat was topped with a miniature bottle of bubbles and wand for use during any scene in which a laundrette or washing machine appeared. Having explained to everyone prior to the start that this was probably the first and only time they would ever be encouraged to blow soap bubbles during a film screening, the air was filled with a near-constant cloud during both showings. Thanks to all who blew furiously – you made me proud!
Actor Gordon Warnecke who plays Omar in the film attended our opening night, sticking around for an interview and Q&A with the audience. He told us he still found it peculiar to watch on a big screen: created by Film Four as a more contemporary successor to the BBC’s Play for Today, he drew our attention to how all the action is designed to take place in the dead centre of the shot. Primarily intended for television broadcast, domestic sets were squarer in shape at that time – cinema exhibition only came later after a rapturous reception from critics.
The infamous kissing scene in the laundrette between Gordon and Daniel Day-Lewis (as Johnny) now also holds different connotations. We learnt that not only had the pair just eaten a full cooked breakfast (a bacon-and-bean infused champagne smooch, delightful), but that a mischievous electrician from the set had snuck beneath the table on which they were embracing, piping up to mutter encouragement from beneath!
Having learnt from past outings how much everyone loves a free raffle, each screening finished with further vintage goodies from the decade that taste forgot. Prizes ranged from novelty shaped erasers to a Glenn Hoddle pencil sharpener, limited edition screenprints by Simon Misra available for sale on the night, Rubik’s Cubes, knock-off ‘Choose Life’ Katharine Hamnett t-shirts and some much coveted plastic calculator watches.
A small number of screenprints are still available for sale at £10 plus £2.50 p+p, now signed by both artist and Gordon Warnecke on the reverse with an accompanying scratch card of scents for those who weren’t able to make it in person. Now for those stinks, in order of appearance…
1: Burnt rubber and petrol for Nasser’s underground garage! 2: Scented tobacco smoke for the men-only drinking den! 3: Mildew for the “boil on the bum” run-down laundrette! 4: Perfume so strong you can taste it on the nightclub hostess! 5: A new car plastic vinyl whiff to accompany the grand opening! 6: A bouquet of carnations, although Tania’s flowers result in tears… 7: Damp grass when fooling about in the garden! 8: How could we not – the smell of soap, as Omar and Johnny rub each other down at the close.
Repeat thanks to Hazard MMX, Tamsin Drury, Hub M3, Charlotte Gould and all at the School of Art & Design, Gordon Warnecke, Simon Misra, our student volunteers and everyone who came to both screenings.