The Friese-Greene Club: A Hidden Gem for Bangkok Cinephiles
Posted: Jul 15 2015
The Friese-Greene Club hosts nightly screenings of repertoire cinema, offering an alternative to the mainstream titles shown in the bigger cineplexes scattered around Bangkok, and allowing its patrons to enjoy projections while sipping on a drink, surrounded by a community of film enthusiasts. This small club is one of Tailor on Ten’s recommended places to spend the evening in the city, and a perfect way to end your work day.
Paul Spurrier, a British filmmaker, started the club as a passion project and imbued the cosy three-floored space with his fascination for the silver screen, with the intention of giving Bangkok’s filmmakers and movie buffs a place to exchange ideas, network, and enjoy film.
Paul moved his first steps in the movie industry at a young age, landing roles as a child actor in several BBC series like ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘Penmarric’, and in full length features including ‘The Wild Geese’, a movie starring Roger Moore and whose plot inspired Stallone’s ‘The Expendables’. He then transitioned into directing, shooting his first feature film “Underground” in the nineties, and working on a number of productions in Europe. The keen filmmaker finally moved to Thailand nine years ago, where he directed “P” in 2005, and opened the FGC, finding time in-between shoots with Thai productions of different nature.
The Friese-Greene Club takes his name from a pioneer of the moving pictures format that remains one of the unsung heroes of the early days of the celluloid revolution. Paul carefully chose the name for his club, and when I interviewed him, he mentioned that he found Freise Greene’s romantic love for moving pictures a source of inspiration throughout his life.
Friese-Greene (1855-1921) was a successful English portrait photographer that spent an entire life chasing his obsession for moving pictures. Starting as a pioneer in different techniques, he tried to introduce motion in the world of photography and patented the first working model of chronophotograpic camera in 1889, capable of ten frames per second, and a stereoscopicopic 3D camera in 1890. Unfortunately, his devices had little commercial success, and that was not enough to save him from declaring bankruptcy in 1891. Shortly after, his obsession run his life to the ground, destroying not only his finances but also his marriage and private life, ultimately landing him in debtor’s prison.
The passionate character did not desist and kept on working towards his dreams until 1921, when he died while attending a seminar on the future of the British film industry. Friese-Greene died with the price of a cinema seat in his pocket, one shilling ten pence, and very little else to show for his years of devotion and passion for pictures, fading in the fashion of a true visionary and romantic hero.
According to Paul, the FGC is run with the same spirit of the unsung hero, and it aims at advancing and honouring the craft of filmmaking without having money as a priority. Paul’s love for cinematography is the fuel that keeps the club running and that contributes to the incredible charm of the location.
The operation is possible thanks to the absence of overhead costs. Paul and his wife live in the building that used to be a Tailor’s workshop, and while he is in charge of the well-researched film program, doubling up as projectionist, his wife runs the bar. The family-run club, as a result, feels intimate, and while it is customary to find international and Thai productions unwinding at the club after a day spent on set, attending one of the projections feels like watching a good movie with a good mix of friends.
This hidden gem is in Sukhumvit 22, tucked away in a dim lit soi past the Imperial Queen’s park hotel. The club hides behind intriguing closed doors, and once you press your finger on the brass doorbell you will be catapulted into celluloid paradise, a world made of red velvet seats, memorabilia and finely poured cocktails. Relax on one of the nine seats in the projection room and let the extremely well researched movie program take you back in time, sit on one of the armchairs in the bar area and sip on a cocktail while the suggestive images on the screen journey into contemporary cinema, or just show up on Tuesday request night and order food from the nearby restaurants. The Friese-Greene Club will not disappoint you.
Projections start at 8:00 PM every day, Tuesday to Sunday. For more information go to the club’s website.
TOT Recommends: It's great movies all around, but follow the Facebook site for the month's theme and schedule. You can also hire the space for private events.
The Friese-Green Club
Sukhumvit soi 22 (400 metres from the start of the soi, immediately after the Imperial Queen's Park Hotel)
BTS Phrom Phong
Tel: 087 000 0795