I’ve been to two movies in two foreign countries.
The main reason I don’t generally seek out the cinema when I’m travelling should be pretty obvious…if you’re in a new, foreign and/or exotic place, you probably should seek out what makes that place distinctive. Movie theaters are not distinctive places, not anymore. They used to be, I imagine…especially from seeing the skeletons of the old theaters in my hometown of Buffalo, New York. The theaters were lovely, with stages and curtains and elaborate ceilings. It was more like a proper theater, with all the requisite sense of glamour and anticipation. Contemporary movie theaters follow the aesthetic of whatever mall they happen to be in, and while the acoustics are pretty good, they’re also pretty interchangeable – which is the last thing you usually want when you’re travelling.
That last one is The Hulme Hipodrome, aka the Grand Junction Theater. It was open under different names from 1901 to the 1960s. I found images of it, and of other run down glorious movie theaters, through the following link: Gorgeous Old Movie Theaters That Have Fallen Into Ruin. Check it out. Another favorite is the Eastown Theater in Detroit, which shut its door in the 1990s.
However, when you work on a cruise ship, as I did for three years, you return to the same ports multiple times. You can’t always be a tourist, especially when your daily life involves docking in some crazy city…and especially if your work and financial life off the ship is precarious and itinerant – meaning, you’re trying to save as much money as you can.
And anyway, we were in Istanbul and the new and last Harry Potter movie had just come out, and I’d be damned if I was going to miss that.
We got a group together – the tenor from the Swedish acappella quartet, two of us glassblowers, and the manager of the youth programs on board the ship – and set off to Taksim Square, which if you remember was the site of the riots in Istanbul last year. It’s the most modern, young, crazy neighborhood, with lots of restaurants and vintage stores, hookah bars and record stores and a wide pedestrian only boulevard that is thronged with people day and night.
We got a hookah and some coffee before the movie, and then went in. The seats were assigned, the theater was plush, and there was a big intermission halfway through the movie when the guy came out of the booth carrying a huge reel of film and came back with another one, which I thought was wonderful.
The film was actually in English with no overdub, but had subtitles in Turkish.
So, my second film in a foreign country, it was last night!
Much like the ships, living in a foreign country is a whole other box of potatoes from tourism or travel. Day to day life is just what is…just in French. And going to a movie? I felt like I was finally ready.
We had to go downtown to deliver an order of wine, and pick up some small gifts for his family, so we decided to get dinner and see a movie too, since the new Hobbit movie just came out really recently. We had spring rolls and phô at an Asian restaurant with a big tank of tumescent, bewildered fish, and then crossed the street for my first film in France.
We watch movies all the time, but we usually try to get them with English subtitles since, while I now understand a lot of spoken French, movie dialogue, with all its broken dramatic phrasing and slangy, idiomatic French, is still challenging. But I decided that if there was ever a time to try, it was with a Tolkien movie, since I know these stories and characters really well.
It was also in 3D so I figured if I did get lost, I could just sit back and enjoy the dragon.
It actually went really well! I got the bulk of the dialogue; not when the various creatures spoke, since they use a guttural, hissing French that was completely incomprehensible…but even with them I got the gist. (A dragon hissing “Je suis MORRRRRRT!”, ok, you are Death, it’s pretty obvious since you’re incinerating things and have those yellow eyes. This movie is pretty good with not being subtle and making the bad guys pretty obvious.)
It’s nice to check in and see how far I’ve come and how much more I understand of the language, especially on days when I’m frustrated.
We are headed out of town for the Xmas holiday on Saturday; we’ve rented a holiday cabin in the Alps in the Savoie region. Mathieu and his younger brother and sister are going to be skiing, although I have to sit this year out to avoid falling and squashing the baby bump. I’m actually really scared. I don’t have the best track record with being able to speak around his family, and largely they don’t speak to me, probably because they’ve sort of given up or don’t know how much I can understand. (They also largely don’t understand my vegetarianism, which is admittedly a weird thing in France, but they make a big deal about it in a way that underscores my isolation.) Still, it’s soul crushing to be ignored or spoken about in the third person, or to not be included in conversations. I know I should jump in, but my confidence erodes around these people, even though they’re really nice. My goal is to try to be braver and more open and show them that I can speak, so that they’ll start speaking to me more directly.
I’m going to need them next year. It’d be nice to be closer.
It’ll be a big test of my French – six days with no English, mostly by myself. Wish me luck!
(P.s, I’ve added a new page to the blog that shows some of the stuff I’ve made over the years. A lot of glass, some paintings, some of it going back almost fifteen years. It’s as random and unorganized as I could make it, but check it out!)