In the days when I still lived in Cheshire, notably 1990-97 when we lived in Cheadle Hulme, I used to love visiting the Cornerhouse in Manchester. This was and is an arts centre occupying a corner property, once Shaw’s Furniture Shop over the road from the old Refuge Assurance building on Oxford Street, and the curved ramp leading to Oxford Street Station. It also comprised the cinema over the road, what had been at one time the Tatler Cinema club – a soft porn movie house.
The reason I loved it so much was that as multiplex cinemas rose and choice decreased, you could always rely on the Cornerhouse to show low-budget films, everything non-mainstream, subtitled foreign movies, classics and oddities – everything the multiplex warehouses did NOT show, in other words. I saw a fair sprinkling films now regarded as classics at the Cornerhouse before they acquired cult status, and from there they went on to achieve great things.
One such was a movie called Reservoir Dogs, about which I knew very little at the time it came out (c1992) but it had been reviewed in the press not necessarily as a great movie but something slightly out of the ordinary, that did not fit the regular patterns of heist crime stories. I had never heard of Tarantino as writer and/or director, but was sufficiently intrigued to go see what the fuss was about. As it happened, my wife was down with her parents on one weekend and I had time, so I stayed in Manchester, where I was working at the time, grabbed a bite to eat and took a trip to the Cornerhouse.
As it happens the cinema was packed, such was the work of mouth about this work, so it was just as well I had booked in advance. I went there with high hopes and was not disappointed. A flawed movie maybe but with the incredible dialogue for which Quentin was later known, a hypnotic sound track allied closely to iconic scenes in the movie (who can listen to Stuck in the Middle with You and not think of the ear-slicing scene?)
So afterwards I followed the crowd into the bar, waited my turn and ordered a drink. Only then, as I tried to find a table did it become apparent that some movie goers were stepping over to the far corner to exchange a few words with a tall, intense American with a high forehead and nervy demeanour. I had no idea who it was, but he would talk politely to anyone who approached him and otherwise sit quietly sipping a drink. He appeared to be alone, though I can’t remember for certain.
Then I heard the buzz. People were saying to their partners and friends: “That’s Tarantino!” What was he doing here, I wondered? Signing autographs? On a promotional tour of northern England? Actually, he did neither – he just sat there looking cool and apparently quite pleased with the reactions..
I looked good and hard at what would become a truly legendary writer, actor and director, but never went to congratulate him. I finished my drink and went home happily. But never did I forget coming within about ten or twelve feet of the great man.