Ed Lewis: Programmer Notes

By Jane Giles

Ed Lewis’ programming was the stuff of dreams. Long after the ways of seeing and being typified in the 1970s-80s by London’s now defunct or revamped late Victorian-built single screen repertory cinemas such as the sleazy Scala in Kings Cross, the Electric in Portobello and Hampstead’s (c)oldest repertory cinema, the Everyman, the Riverside bucked the trend by presenting Ed’s double bills. The art of the double bill is deceptively simple, a match-making of two films that just have to go together. Two works by the same auteur is entry level programming (but can be a marathon for the audience; I can’t believe we used to show Pasolini triple bills, clearing the final house with an appallingly mashed print of Salo). A meeting of genres gives more scope for exploring the nuances of cinema, but it’s the contextualisation of contemporary films that can afford the programmer some of their greatest pleasures. Did Ed get a chance to support Far From Heaven with All That Heaven Allows? Or would he have gone for Fear Eats the Soul?

The repertory programmer, and Ed was amongst the best, conjures up a blissful evening’s viewing that leaves no time for more deceptively complicated acts such as socializing. Or eating, when there’s just enough time for a coffee and cigarette between shows. It would have been good to hear what the always candid and could-be caustic Mr Lewis would have said about the death from cancer of the Evening Standard’s fearsome film critic and fervent anti-smoker Alexander Walker this July. But by the end of January Ed had already slipped out the back exit before the last show had finished. At his Riverside wake in March we watched movies, ate and drank Italian and were shown many photographs of Ed smoking with beautiful women. It was a fine tribute.

Jane Giles (ICA Cinema Director; former programmer of The Scala 1988-92).