Three people stand in a dark room gathered around a light source
Credit: Matchbox Cine

Matchbox Cine presents Shelf Life (1993)

By Katherine Prentice

Matchbox Cine facilitates post-lockdown cinema watching this month with a hybrid in person and online screening of Paul Bartel’s early 90s drama comedy

Having attended many online events over the last year, including film screenings and festivals, it is obvious that they are in some ways, shockingly, better. Being a disabled film fan, accessibility is often at the forefront of my mind, especially recently, and I have loved being able to attend events across the world, and even university, from the comfort of my home. But I have also been thrilled at the idea of getting back to events and the cinema, and Matchbox Cine are offering one of the first tastes of what film screenings could look like moving forward, with a hybrid screening and Q&A on the 27th of August.  

Originating from Glasgow and now based in Bristol, Matchbox Cine are film exhibitors and subtitlers aiming to make cult films available and accessible to the masses. For their first hybrid event they are screening Paul Bartel’s Shelf Life (1993) in person and online, with a Q&A with the cast. Shelf Life focuses on three adults who have been kept in an underground shelter for 30 years after JFK’s assassination, and is a fantastic watch, especially if you are looking for something a bit different. There was something very charming about the exaggerated lighting and visible film crackles, and, with how cinematic the shots are, I did not feel I was missing out watching it on the small screen. You can see that at its core the film works as a play, so if you have also been missing live shows but wary of stepping foot in a theatre quite yet this is also a good one for you. And in case of any more lockdowns, there is some interesting inspiration for games to play while locked inside, and ways to find entertainment in acts as mundane as a presentation on chain reactions. Think of an arthouse version of Bo Burnham’s Inside, if he had been inside since he was 6, with plenty of songs, strange outfits and dark comedy leaving you stunned and entertained.  

But hopefully we are all finally emerging out of our bunkers and into the outside world, taking some lessons with us. As the film is taken off the shelf after 28 years, it is entering a very different world, and it will be fascinating to see its reception, as well as the reflections of the cast after all this time. There are some interesting parallels, from the film emerging after almost 30 years locked away, to being the start of new forms of exhibition as we all get back to ‘normal’. With more and more film festivals and exhibitors, such as Alchemy and Glasgow Film Festival, committing to subtitling films for D/deaf audiences, and undoubtedly a rise in hybrid and online screenings and events moving forward, this event is a fantastic chance to get familiar with film viewing post-pandemic. 


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