Old-time movies at the Friese Greene Club — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
While Bangkok does have dozens of multiplex movie cinemas where one can find posh seating and freezing air conditioning to help soothe away the stresses of the city heat and chaos, it really is not known as a place for art house cinephiles. However, the Friese Greene Club is not just a great place to watch flicks; it is like a nostalgic ode to the great days of cinema and a visit-worthy spot for its movie memorabilia, bar and kind owner, as well.
William Freese Greene was a British photographer and inventor, considered to be one of the pioneers of the motion picture industry. He created a chronophotographic camera and an additive color process to film, and it is in his honor that the club is named. The Friese Greene Club (FGC) was opened by Paul Spurrier, a former British child actor and writer-director of the well-known Thai ghost film P (2005), as well as being the first foreign director of photography for a well-known Thai TV series.
Having been involved for years with the Thai film industry and international film festivals here, Spurrier wanted to have a space where people in the local film community could hang out, share ideas and talk shop, perhaps along the lines of a Foreign Correspondents Club for cinema aficionados.
Movies and cocktails at the Friese Greene Club — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis
Spurrier ended up turning his beautiful old shophouse - a former tailor’s workshop located at the end of a cul de sac silent subsoi off of Sukhumvit 22 - into a private screening room. It's worth a visit for its atmosphere alone. There is no sign advertising the place - just a set of large, stately wooden doors and a buzzer to gain admittance by.
It might feel more like a private gentleman’s club than a cinema, but once inside, one is surrounded by film memorabilia, antique cameras and film posters from the classics. There are also plenty of comfy chairs and sofas to chill out on.
The downstairs of the three-story house is a bar, serving up inexpensive beer, soft drinks and cocktails named after various films the drinks have been in, while the middle floor has a couch and large-screen TV. But the pièce de résistance is the nine-seat private screening room on the third floor, complete with red, plush VIP seats and a giant screen.
Aesthetics aside, it is the films that make this place a winner. The FGC features different films every night, almost all of them hard-to-find art house gems or film classics that one would never see in Bangkok.
The films are set around monthly or weekly themes, which range from documentaries to Indies to classics. The film lineup is quite astounding, with titles like Citizen Kane, Being There, In the Realm of the Senses, Eraserhead and Thin Blue Line as just a sampling of what's on hand.
Enjoy your own private VIP screen — Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis