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The Last Picture Show

Who says drive-ins are a thing of the past?
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Who says drive-ins are a thing of the past?

Bob Rennie, the lifestyle/condo marketer, is up on the screen, larger than life in Mark Lewis’s 1995 short “Two Impossible Films.” Rennie and a roomful of other pretend students (there’s Jeff Wall!) are listening to a Marxist deconstruction of Vancouver’s explosive real-estate scene.

Restless—the chairs are hard—I glance away from the screen to see Rennie’s crown jewel, the Woodward’s District’s W-43 tower, dominating the downtown skyline. Vancouver as backdrop to Hollywood North—that’s the topsy-turvy perspective of the Gastown Drive-in.

“Two Impossible Films” follows the backroom deals that lead to a Vancouver development, and as architects on-screen red-pen blueprints, I wonder what our buildings would say if they could speak. Panning from the W-43, there’s the Dominion Building—it could definitely tell some tales—the BC Hydro building, the Scotiabank tower, the Birks clock just peeking above the rooflines, the Canaccord tower, the megalith office block that houses the Vancouver Sun. And directly behind the giant temporary screen is Harbour Centre and its Top of Vancouver revolving restaurant.

Lewis’s short wraps and we’re into the feature, David Ray’s sci-fi drama Fetching Cody. The film debuted at the Toronto fest in 2005, but only tonight, here, does it get its Vancouver premiere. Which is odd because it’s a Vancouver story through and through, as befits its inclusion in this three-night brainchild of Peeroj Thakre and Henning Knoetzele, founding directors of the Urban Republic Arts Society. “Vancouver stars as itself” is the drive-in’s theme, and it must be resonating, because the place is jammed. Ranged up the final ramp leading onto the roof of EasyPark Lot 31 on Water Street are the 40 drivers sensible enough to reserve; they’re listening to narrowcast on FM 103.3. The rest of us, 200 or more, fidget in our plastic stacking chairs ranked across the rooftop mezzanine’s parking stalls. The resourceful have brought their own seats, cushions, pillows, blankets; a couple recline on their wooden patio set with Chinese and red wine; a man and woman spoon in the centre seat they’ve unhinged from their minivan.

“We’re looking at the contemporary city and how we live as we become a denser city,” Thakre later explains from her office across the street. “Look at this parking lot. During the day it’s full—you’re happy to find a free space. But at night it’s this amazing location—virtually empty.” Not tonight, of course.

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