Sukhumvit is hustle and bustle.
This is a dynamic district, full of people running around chasing different lives, where you can find nearly everything. The only things that do seem hard to come by are oases of tranquillity, places with a homely feeling where you can find peace at the end of a long day.
This is where little jewels like the Friese-Greene Club (FGC) come into play.
The cosy private members’ club offers screenings of repertoire cinema weekly from Tuesday to Sunday. It’s buried behind the closed doors of a shophouse in a little subsoi off Sukhumvit 22 but once you find it, it will be easy for a trip to the FGC to become one of your weekly rituals.
Paul Spurrier, a filmmaker and the owner of the club, named the space after William Friese-Greene – a 19th century British portrait photographer, productive inventor and motion-picture pioneer.
“The life of Friese-Greene has always been a source of inspiration for me. The man remains one of the unsung heroes of the celluloid revolution, and even after being declared bankrupt, he never stopped chasing his dreams,” explained Spurrier when I sat down with him for an interview.
Friese-Greene is rumoured to have died in 1921 while attending a conference discussing the future of the British film industry, with the exact change for a cinema ticket in his pocket – hallmarks of a true cinema enthusiast.
Even the inscription on his tombstone reads, “The Inventor of Kinematography”.
Spurrier founded the club to create a networking space where cinema lovers can interact in Bangkok, but also to provide an alternative to the mainstream programming most of the rest of the city’s cinemas offer. At the FGC, patrons can enjoy repertoire films while immersed in an atmosphere imbibed with Spurrier’s fascination with the silver screen.
Like Friese-Greene, Spurrier’s life has also been devoted to moving pictures. He made his first steps in the industry as a child actor, enjoying the experience of being actively involved on set. After landing roles in well-known movies and TV shows, Paul was finally inspired to get behind the camera. He produced his first feature film in the 90s and, after several turns in his career, came to settle in Thailand, opening the FGC a couple of years ago.
“We are a small community of filmmakers and cinema students, but there are also some movie buffs coming in just to enjoy the screenings,” Spurrier says of the FGC’s membership. “The atmosphere is homely, and my wife and I run the place. She takes care of the bar and I take care of projections.”
The shophouse where the FGC is based used to be a tailor’s sweatshop before being repurposed by Spurrier who infused every detail with his passion.
The result is a homely club tastefully decorated with cinema memorabilia: a perfect place to be transported into the parallel dimension of film.
During screenings, you can order cocktails from the bar – poured to perfection – on the first floor, loaf on the couch in the living room on the second, or actually go to the film screening on the third, which is host to a projection room with nine lush red seats and a large screen.
I remember fondly the evening I spent at the FGC, conversing with Paul about his inspirational life and looking at Thailand through his eyes. A trip there is a great way to unplug from the mania of Sukhumvit and be treated to the projection of a classic with a beautiful cocktail at your side.
How do you like to relax on Sukhumvit? Share with us your favourite hidden gems in the comments!
259/6 Sukhumvit Soi 22