Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Cinema! Or, a return to good old healthy traditions

I GOT THE FUCKING JOB!!! More on this later, for now this puts me in such a good mood that I just feel like a good old-fashioned passionate rant - at least over nother post on contemporary theory (though I've got to admit they must be popular - my page-views have tripled in the last month).

I was actually thinking of opening this post with the exclamation “Oi! Fitbirds!” because after I learnt it in the Caribbean from my Welsh housemate Jack I was happily using with all the English students I met there, even the males, such was my appreciation of the expression. But my enjoyment of the phrase took a capital plunge on an occasion in which I had the ill-engendered idea of using it with my English teacher who was a monster of wrinkles and aged something like seventy-two (but bearing at least two decades extra in appearance), and she rather took it to heart. What I mean by that is that she threw me out of the class and promised to talk about it with my supervisor. As a way of consoling me for the unjustified disciplinary measure I had been subjected to, my friends invited me to the cinema, because, they said, a local production was on show. The latter fact already made me rather skeptical - I try to be open to artesan productions of culture, but admittedly the prospect of going to watch a documentary on fishermen or a video about palm-trees was not the most fulfilling in my life.

Nonetheless, it has to be said that I was so starved of good movies that I would have accepted an invitation to go watch 'Samson versus Hercules in the Valley of the Incas' if I had been asked, so I accepted. I was in fact rather curious, as I hadn’t had the chance to go and see a film for a good while – the closest cinemas seemed to be stuck on agricultural hills rising miles away and buses didn’t move after six pm anyway – and I followed in somewhat of a thrill as they led me by the sea, next to the concrete basketball pitches and bars, towards the place in question. As we walked it seemed we were going to pass by some kind of a barn with half a wall torn down, and as I heard noises coming from inside I wondered with a smile if there mightn’t be some kind of rave in it, when to my utter bewilderment I came close enough to see that that was 'the cinema' in question! Yet even if the zone hadn’t been such an uncompromising shack, my reaction would have been the same - and not for the sight of the chairs, which, by the fashion in which they were encrusted into metal bars of about two hundred thousand tons, looked like they had been yanked out of a bus after beating up the driver, nor for the screen itself, which was some kind of wooden wall lifted in what I have to be admit must have been a masterpiece of improvisation and connected to a machine in turn stuck with cables to a DVD or something of the sort, producing the effect that we were not going to the cinema as much as contemplating a particularly big TV.

No, what really plugged my jack there was that the entire place was flooded with little kids! Let us get something clear, I don’t mind little kids as long as they’re properly grilled, but I don’t drool at the notion of seeing a whole room of them jumping up and down at the sight of a film which, incredibly, managed to fall below even my 'local production' expectations to descend to some absolutely unspeakable levels of direness: Aladdin III?! I didn’t even know they’d made that piece of crap, I suppose that even if someone found the 50 euros for the production the idea alone of having to direct something that I wouldn’t watch with a pair of binoculars and which would probably hit the Guinness as the most formulaic piece of shit ever produced would be enough to get people leaping off cliffs with dynamite sticks in their hands. And for the record, this is coming from a Disney fan.

So I went there, not at the peak of my enthusiasm as you might have surmised, and sat there in front of the show. As soon as I did so, Aladdin and the little Arab bimbo he bangs during the interval decide to cap off into the most gut-achingly cloying song I’ve heard since 'Who took the cookie from the cookie's jar' that we did at school – just as an introduction, you see; it was their way to begin showing me what I’d got myself into. I bear it as I can and spend my time ranting with the friend next to me as the film quickly pops off into another song (this time involving the genie and the monkey, obviously there was an overabundance of ideas at the screenwriters’ place). The show is mercifully chopped down occasionally by the blare of the lorries and cars that roar behind us (the place isn’t exactly in closed quarters), but the little kids make up for that with screams and whines at the sight of the bad guy, who happens to be a Chinese warrior.

Wait, hold on a second - a Chinese warrior? In the Thousand and One Nights? How the hell did he get there? The dissonance doesn't register with me at first because I am too busy with a popcorn war engaged against one of my friends in the first row (out of six), but as time goes on, I notice there is something darkly intriguing in the way that the film struggles to give its plot a sense of thematic coherence. It initially tries to compensate for the Chinese guy by placing him at the head of the forty thieves, and I was positively impressed by how genuinely it seemed to want to hold it together before fucking it up beyond recognition by having the leader of the brigands stand up in front of a shore and opening up the sea like Moses. Talk about a postmodern pastiche. As if that weren't enough, the leader in question turns out to be... Aladdin's father. Oh Lord protect us.

I don't know how long exactly I remained in that cinema, suffice it to say that after an indefinite period of something similar to that scene in Clockwork Orange where they tie Alex to a chair and force his eyes open, mostly spent scratching my jackals while hoping I may find some fitbirds somewhere, at the sixth song in what felt like fourteen minutes I took to my feet and decided it was time to lift my sails – in brief, I went back home. And I did so, for once, with a solid conviction having formed itself in my head: there are some of the most beautiful things in the world in the Caribbean, but good Lord, cinema is so not one of them.

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