Oct 09

The Lucky Horseshoe, or Imaginarium Squarium

Do You See + FT + Pumpkin Publog7 comments • 506 views

I’ve not been to every pub in London, but I have been to a fair few in the centre and think myself to be pretty well versed in the whereabouts of drinking venues. From refurb to closure, I keep an eye even on the holes I rarely visit. All that said, when Ewan suggested we drank in The Horseshoe in Clerkenwell I couldn’t immediately place it. It turned out to be slightly off of Clerkenwell Green, by a load of Peabody Estate flats and really rather lovely in the kind of rough and ready way I like. We had a terrific night in there, listing our alternative careers, talking about Javier the Giraffe who thinks he’s a llama and U2pia. It was one of those odd nights that creep up on you out of nowhere, and the pub was a lot to do with it.

All that said, I have never been there before, and had never seen it before, having never taken that turn off of Clerkenwell Green. So can we call it mere coincidence that in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, a very significant scene (including a fight) takes place outside of The Horseshoe? That large swathes of it take place in and and around Battersea Power Station, my favourite view in London. Of course none of this is a coincidence, Terry Gilliam has designed his odd, imagination baiting film in this way. He must of done, because there is no way the film can be taken seriously as a straight narrative.

Its all well and good taking the tale of an eternal struggle between a mystic monk and the devil over the very imagination and souls of humanity to the streets of London. Perhaps London is the ideal place for it, with its juxtaposition of drabness and some of the most wonderful flights of fantasy in the world. But to stuff the film then with midgets, lovelorn boys, Heath Ledger doing four accents and everyone else playing him doing another eight – its a film about a game that has no rules. And the rules it doesn’t have it insists on playing by. This means there is occasionally something wonderful, or beautiful around the corner (Lily Cole’s fetishisation of Ideal Home magazine being the most striking) but the rest of the film is such a mess that you are loathe to guess what it all means. It may be Gilliam’s purest and most personal project since Baron Munchaussen, but it shares a wealth of flaws with that film (and a half hundredweight of similar characters).

There would probably be a great “making of” documentary in it. And you know, I wonder if Gilliam just exists so that people can tell stories about how he makes his films, with the films being sometimes the biggest letdown of all. (Mind you, I loved Tideland so…)


  1. 1
    Dave on 21 Oct 2009 #

    On a much more prosaic level, the scene in ‘A Fish called Wanda’ where the getaway car screeches to a halt at some barriers in an alley, before the gang exit the car and scarper on foot, was shot outside the horseshoe, in the alley just to the left of that picture.

    I used to drink in their a lot when I worked just around the corner. It wasn’t bad at all – good beer, chips for free during halftime in football matches, half decent beer garden and frequent lock-ins. The only downside was the tendency of the landlord’s son to bring his mates in to make one corner of it a cliquey and slightly aggressive youth club.

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    porkypie on 21 Oct 2009 #

    I could have sworn I’d drunk in there with you Pete? I’ve certainly been in there a fair few times, possibly usually with Jonnie – lovely big screen with few people in front of it. Agree with Dave on the youth club thing though.

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 21 Oct 2009 #

    Nope, it was off my radar til last week. I knew there was a pub around there, just never drunk in it. I can see it being a good football pub, and the staff were really nice too. I can’t comment on the food, that’s to others, though we liked the CCTV for the garden where we could watch Eli and Hazel having a fag.

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    unlogged moggy on 21 Oct 2009 #

    I thought it was quite a good pub, if somewhat out of the way for me and indeed everyone else apart from Steve M. Mayhap the chaotic spirit of Gilliam had taken over our conversation at points, although I maintain that competitive giraffe cartooning makes an excellent pub sport. (however it would probably be a good idea for THE WORLD if the notes re: data entry dystopian sci-fi sitcom were never, ever read back)

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    Steve Mannion on 21 Oct 2009 #

    I dislike their chairs – they don’t feel very pub-like. Otherwise OK.

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    Pamela on 22 Oct 2009 #

    Oh I knew they were filming round there, Pete. I stumbled across the set on my lunchbreak:


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    Mark M on 25 Oct 2009 #

    It’s not a very good film? The non-fantasy bits reminded me of the work of Derek Jarman (not a good thing in my book), and not just because Doc Parnassus and Val are rather obviously like Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest.

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