Glastonbury is a lot of things: Britain’s biggest music festival, a hedonistic wonderland, a rally stop for Jeremy Corbyn. However, it’s unlikely anyone would think of it as a cineaste’s paradise.
Ok, perhaps that’s a little unfair. The festival’s resident cinema, the Pilton Palais, celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, and has seen some notable premieres, most recently of Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse doc. Film, however, has generally been relegated to a supporting role.
Not any more. This year Julien Temple documenter of all things debauched, has created a new Glastonbury area, Cineramageddon, a “post-apocalyptic drive-in” that aims to drag film from the festival’s margins into the spotlight. Fittingly for the man who burned through a prodigious amount of cash while making Absolute Beginners, Temple’s latest project is nothing if not grand. A fleet of vintage cars has been handed over to Joe Rush, founder of the Mutoid Waste Company and probably the closest thing Glastonbury has to an artist-in-residence, who has added all manner of warped modifications: one car has had its bonnet ripped open and a row of teeth added, another has been part-submerged in the Glasto soil.
Towering above this strange assortment of vehicles is the biggest cinema screen in the country, which will be playing everything from Withnail and I to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s hallucinogenic fantasy film Holy Mountain and, screening just as festival-goers stagger back to their tents on the final night, Apocalypse Now. Temple got the idea during a trip to Cuba, where he encountered a drive-in filled with antique American cars. “Glastonbury is probably the only place where a drive-in like this could work in Britain,” he says. “Everywhere else, people wouldn’t go because of the rain”
Temple, who first attended the festival as a student in 1971, knows a fair bit about Glasto. Between 2002 and 2005 he took on the daunting task of knitting together three decades-worth of footage for Glastonbury the Movie, his mammoth documentary. “I always had the feeling that film at Glastonbury has not been presented in the ‘taking it to the edge of the envelope’ spirit of the festival,” he says. “It’s a very different experience that we are going for – nocturnal, wilder.”
He began by “trying to think of someone who embodied this rock’n’ roll attitude within a cinematic experience,” Temple says. “People like Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando had it – Robert Mitchum was the originator of it. In our time Depp has inherited that role.”
Of course, not everyone sees Depp in such a positive light. Some have suggested that the actor’s booking, to curate an evening of films, is out of keeping with the spirit of the festival, given the allegations of domestic abuse against him, but Temple seems unconcerned. Temple has also programmed a smaller indoor venue called the Black Lamp, which will show arthouse films, beginning each day with a film by French new waver Robert Bresson. Does he really think there’s an audience for such select fare? “Black coffee and a croissant with Bresson: I think it’s a gentle way to wake up and celebrate being human. As long as a few people enjoy it, I’m going to be happy.”
For Temple, Cineramageddon is the way forward. “The old pattern of releasing a film, particularly an independent, in an Odeon is a thing of the past,” he argues. “If you believe in cinema, and want it to be something more than just Netflix or Amazon, you have to think of dynamic new ways of showing it.” He has ambitious plans: he hopes eventually to add a workshop for young filmmakers, “ a viewing chamber for underground New York films of the 40s and 50s”, and virtual reality booths in Rush’s mutated cars, so “you can be in the Amazon in one and the Arctic in another”. Most ambitiously of all, he hopes to buy a projector so powerful it can screen films on the clouds. “Imagine: the whole site will be able to see things happening. Bowie could be up on the clouds, or Elvis. Or Jeremy Corbyn!”
Cineramaggedon is at Glastonbury festival, from Wednesday to Monday.