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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Do you check out the movie scene when you travel?

I’m in London at the moment, and I hope to get the chance to go to a movie here. Though to be honest, it’s low on my list of priorites. Talking to people here about movies is high on the list, but it does seem kind of silly of waste precious hours here on a movie I could see at home, even if I have to wait a while for it.

If I had the chance to attend a press screening while I’m here, I would probably make time for that, to see how that experience differs from New York. And if it meant the chance to see a British film long before I’d have the chance to see it at home, I’d really jump at it. But though I have somehow managed to get my name onto some U.K. press lists, and do sometimes receive invites to screenings here in London, I didn’t happen get any that coincide with my time here.

Do you check out the movie scene when you travel? For those of you in the U.S., you wouldn’t have to travel outside the country to potentially find a different moviegoing experience. For everyone else, you’d probably have to travel internationally to expect to run into differences.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me.)

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  • The only time I did that was in Australia in 2003, I went to see the film Ned Kelly starring Heath Ledger. While it was a fascinating cultural experience to watch that film as an American, it was even more interesting to hear the Australians talking about how badly the film would play in the US. I was happy to offer my perspective as a “Yank” and ultimately agreed that it wasn’t a story most Americans would “get”.

    To my knowledge it never got any theater time here and went straight to HBO. Sad really because it is one of Mr. Ledgers finer performances I thought. Perhaps in the wake of his untimely demise it’ll get some recognition.

  • Katie Dvorak

    I’m kinda of the mind that if I have time to see a movie I’m not using my time wisely. I’m more likely to go see a play than a movie. The only way I can imagine myself seeing a movie is if it’s something I know won’t be playing in the states.

  • I’ve been to cinemas in a number of foreign countries but it rarely qualifies as a unique cultural experience. Multiplexes are much of a muchness, wherever you go.

    India’s different because it has Bollywood – you’ll even see shop frontages adorned with paintings of their biggest star, Amitabh Bachchan. If you travel by bus, you’ll also see movies played on video, at very high volume. They always made me think of a sketch on the Anglo-Indian BBC comedy show, ‘Goodness Gracious Me’. An Indian movie mogul tells his colleagues: “I saw an English film once, ‘Remains of the Day’. Only two hours long. No dancing.” (The one time I ventured into a cinema to see an Indian film, it turned out to be atypically downbeat and colourless, and I left after half an hour.)

    Sometimes it’s pointless seeing Western films abroad, because they’re censored. I saw ‘Braveheart’ in Egypt and was told later that kilt-raising scenes had been hacked out because apparently Arabs find bare bottoms particulatly offensive. In India, I avoided seeing ‘Love, Actually’ because it was the substantially shorter ‘Asian cut’. No romance between shy porn stand-ins in that one, for a start.

    I went to see the Leslie Nielsen comedy ‘Spy Hard’ in Prague, only to find that the cinema alternated between dubbed and non-dubbed screenings and that the jokes weren’t that funny to me in Czech.

    I saw ‘Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery’ in a vast, wood-panelled [and almost empty] Soviet-era cinema in Vilnius, Lithuania, which I thought was quite ironic. God knows how they managed to subtitle all the bad puns, or whether anyone in the former eastern bloc really ‘got’ a pastiche of Western spy movies.

    In New Zealand, I was very moved by ‘Rabbit-Proof Fence’. I would have been moved by it in the UK too, but as I’d only recently been in Australia, I suppose it had a little more resonance.

    In Santa Monica I saw the documentary ‘Comedian’. It was never released in the UK. Jerry Seinfeld’s not that big over here.

    Finally, Cape Town has an arthouse called the Labia Cinema, which is always good for a juvenile snigger.

  • Althea

    I’m with you, MaryAnn, and the others who don’t want to waste the time. For one thing, I will have been out and about during the day and gotten dog-tired and/or been to a live theater matinee, so holing up in the hotel (or wherever I’m staying) is the usual evening. I was taken out to one movie in England, which was interesting to see the little bits of difference in the house and the concessions, but that was plenty.

  • Jerry Colvin

    Being a film freak from a smaller midwest city rather than NYC, when I travel it is always my top priority to check out movies I can’t see at home, especially if playing in unique and/or historic cinemas, and most especially classic movies I have never seen before even on TV.

    I’ve been to London several times, to at least one different cinema each visit. Memories include seeing TV commercials before movies for the first time, being ushered to my seat at certain venues, extremely small screening rooms at some venues (prompting me to research this in advance from then on), sugar popcorn, still vs. sparking water, Minstrels (candy), seeing all of Rohmer’s Tales of Four Seasons one week, laughing at the British re-titling of the first Harold and Kumar movie, sitting next to a female vampire during a BFI Halloween screening of Nosferatu/Warning Shadows, seeing Clerks at the London International Film Fest, etc.

  • Jennie

    When I travel to Paris I always check out the cinema – it’s one of the great cinema cities in the world.

    And some of my favorite movie watching experiences were in India (always a cultural experience), Prague (right after the Velvet Revolution where a basement in a house was suddenly the neighborhood cinema / dance hall) and Stockholm (where there was a cinema outfitted with the Swedish equivalent of barcaloungers and coffee tables showing a Japanese film with Richard Gere).

    I’d rather hang out in a cinema than a hotel room and it’s often a cultural experience of it’s own.

  • Der Bruno Stroszek

    I’m generally in the “not enough time” camp, though when I was in Barcelona I did see a cinema advertising Atonement and I felt very tempted. Watching repressed British 1930s angst dubbed into Spanish would be kind of brilliant, like some avant-garde video art project that’s somehow escaped into proper cinemas. I didn’t bother in the end, though.

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