“It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it.”
― Roger Ebert
At least once a week we pick an area and go exploring. Which is how we stumble across things like the Covent Garden branch of the London Film Museum.
It’s a relatively small museum that has only been open for a couple of years, but it contains a lot really good stuff, including early cinema equipment, some of the earliest films ever made, really fabulous exhibits on the history on the technology development of film. From painted glass sides you could hold before a lantern in the Regency, to digital recording innovations, it encapsulates the history pretty well! One of my favorite bits was the examples and drawings of the camera equipment that wilderness photographers had to cart around by pack animal to document the American West as it opened up. Trains of donkeys were often needed to transport one photographer’s gear and the glass slides that captured the images were large panes that required a level of care that was hard to get in a city let alone on a nearly vertical slope somewhere in largely uncharted wilderness
The other half of the museum is devoted to an exhibition of British in general and London specific contributions to film. The exhibitions are a mix of the different eras, themes, and social commentary of films made in or about Britain. As an additional treat, they have a really excellent collection of costumes and set pieces from iconic British television shows and films. The Coronation Chair from Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett, Laurence Olivier’s uniform jacket from The Battle of Britain…and then this which nearly made me shriek:
Bow down , peasants, Cecil Beaton’s work as worn by Audrey Hepburn & Co. is present, including That Dress.
…Okay, it’s a copy, but they are made and put up close – not even under glass – so you can see the construction and design work that went into them. I don’t have a lot of super girly childhood moments to reflect on, but here’s one: as a kid I would watch, rewind (remember VHS, kids?) and rewatch the Ascot scene over and over again because of the beautiful costumes. I’d try to focus on a different one each time because (apart from the hilarious intention faux pas of the two ladies in the same hat) each gown was unique and stunning. I still have my favorites.
It’s such a new museum, and a satellite to another location on the South Bank as well, that I fear it’s not getting the love it deserves. It’s small and definitely still finding its way in some ways, but fun and charming and well worth a look in for history, pop culture, and film buffs. It’s totally free and open daily. I also recommend the cafe, located in the below ground and historic area of the museum – though if that doesn’t float your boat, our favorite gelatto joint is just around the corner.