Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Angels & Dolphins: a Rather Long-Winded Cinematic Adventure

There's something decidedly dark & squirrelly about my character that compels me to seek out that which I despise - just so that I can despise it a little bit more.

Such did I scribble 28 months, 3 days ago (I counted) in my then ongoing/thwarted/futile attempts (note my use of the plural) to find a copy of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code in Rabat. In English. Given that it was a pirate I was in search of - a DVD not Bluebeard - in what was a veritable pirate's cove of illegal films, my ongoing/thwarted/futile attempts (note my use of the plural) appear even more pathetic when you consider that I hate Dan Brown and I hated the Da Vinci Code. The book, not the pirate and not Bluebeard.

Fast forward a fistful of months (no need to be pedantically exact any longer) and Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I are in Madrid and I am reading Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, because it is in English and I am in Spain and I will read anything including refrigerator manuals if they are in English and I am abroad which I was (and am). Having said that, it is still woefully pathetic that I am reading Angels & Demons when you consider that I hate Dan Brown and I hated the Da Vinci Code. It behoves me to say that I didn't actually hate Angels & Demons quite as much as its sequel but little gems of Brown's - for example, referring to Islam as the religion of Arabs - did succeed in setting my teeth on edge and provided a timely and helpful reminder of why I hate Dan Brown.

Fast forward several fistfuls of months (no need to be pedantically exact any longer) and Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I are in Izmit and Dan Brown's Angels & Demons -or rather, Melekler ve Şeytanlar - opens in a theatre near us. And because it is in English (its Turkish title notwithstanding) and I am in Turkey, I will go to any film including Dan Brown novel adaptations if it is in English and I am abroad which I am (and I still am).

So it's off to the Dolphin Sinemasi - because nothing evokes the image of going to the movies like a prancing dolphin - for an afternoon matinée. As the ticket girl clearly does not understand our attempt to order two tickets for Melekler ve Şeytanlar, we request two tickets for Angels & Demons, and then point to the pixel board. She in turn points to a screen embedded in the ticket counter which has a schemata of salon 6 - what will be our theatre - and gestures for us to select our seats. As no one else has purchased tickets for Angels & Demons - or Melekler ve Şeytanlar for that matter - we have the pick of the lot. Seats 9 and 10 it is.

With ticket in hand we pass what, in retrospect, we think must have been the theatre's ticket taker - we're not really sure since he's wearing a polo shirt, jeans and running shoes - who stamps our ticket as if he were validating our parking.

It's on to the concession stand - my favourite place in any theatre - which, in my opinion, tells you more about the theatre than anything else. Here I buy the world's smallest box of popcorn. Given that my wont is to buy popcorn in industrial-size oil drums - and I try to frequent theatres which offer unlimited free refills to boot - when I say that here I buy the world's smallest box of popcorn, I really mean that I buy two: one for me and one for Mr This Cat's (Not) Abroad which he knows is not for him but for me. In a world of judgmental movie-goers, he is my popcorn beard. We also buy two cans of Coke which are grievously warm.

I am somewhat surprised that we are allowed to bring aluminum cans into salon 6 and I have a brief but blissful flashback of movie-going in Madrid where the concession hombre insisted on pouring our beer into paper cups - apologizing all the while - as theatre policy just didn't permit cans into the movie theatre proper. If eating your popcorn and drinking beer (beer was cheaper than Coke in a movie theatre) from a paper cup isn't slumming it, I don't know what is.

We move on to salon 6 but alas! the door is locked. The film starts in 20 minutes and we are confused. We look around for an attendant (I am already halfway through my first box of popcorn) but see no one. What ho! What is this? A gaggle of teenagers wearing polo shirts, jeans and running shoes. One of them sees us and comes running - well walking briskly - over. It seems this is the standard issue Dolphin Employee Uniform. He unlocks the door, and we duly take seats 9 and 10 - rather plush and comfy I might add - and I deposit my empty popcorn box under my seat and begin work on Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad's my other one.

The film begins! Huzzah! Or at least the trailers have and interestingly, the format of the trailers - i.e. the aspect ratio - does not fit the movie screen so our on screen actors appear to have watermelon heads. This does not bode well. Will Mr. Tom Spanks also have a watermelon head? Well actually, in real life he does have a bit of a watermelon head but will his already lumpy head look even more watermelonish? Why does everyone look like Oompa Loompas?

The film begins! Huzzah! And this time, it is the film. We settle into our rather plush and comfy seats and prepare to mock the film - bear in mind that this is a film adaptation of a Dan Brown book and I hate Dan Brown.

Time passes. Huzzah! Flashing colourful images which emit the English language entertains us beyond words. True, the dialogue of the first fifteen minutes of the film is in Italian - serious Italian scientists et al. creating life in a Swiss lab - and that the Big Brains at the Turkish Subtitling Organization elected to cover the English subtitles of these crucial/key/critical scenes with Turkish subtitles vexed me a bit. After all, if we hadn't read the book, we would have had no clue what was going on. It was only the premise of the entire fucking movie.

Time passes. Huzzah! Flashing colourful images which emit the English language entertain us beyond words. What ho! The movie has stopped! We are in mid-scene. Mr. Tom Spanks is in mid-speech. Or rather, was. The screen flashes: it is intermission! It seems that in Turkey, at the exact one-hour mark in the film - regardless of whether Atlanta is burning or a knife is slicing through a shower curtain in mid arc - the film stops. I can only imagine that the Turkish screening of Lawrence of Arabia had 12 breaks. Everyone gets up and stretches their legs and I send Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad back to the concession stand for more popcorn.

Time (i.e., ten minutes) passes. Huzzah! The film resumes. Flashing colourful images which emit the English language entertain us beyond words. The film's riveting storyline builds and swells and bursts into an implausibly ridiculous crescendo and it is over. Finished. And because Mr. This Cat's (Not) Abroad and I actually enjoy reading the credits, we sit back to fill out our metaphorical comment cards. Did the Dolly Grip do a good job? What about the Best Boy? Was Rafael E. Sánchez the gaffer? - because we really admire his work. Who catered it? What ho! The projectionist has turned off the film. There are no credits. There is no more film.

I would like to add that I took advantage of the intermission to reflect a little - and perhaps that's why Turkish theatres offer their movie-goers a break. Just to mull things over, to digest those pivotal first 60 minutes of the film. Anyway, as much as I hate Dan Brown - and I do - I would personally like to thank him for bringing so much joy into my life. And in so completely an unintended manner. Thanks Dan.


Cath said...

It must be an ex-pat thing. I read The Da Vinci Code several years ago, and it put me off anything Dan Brown-related for an eternity. Albino monks -- sheesh! It was like an unfunny episode of Get Smart.

This Cat's Abroad said...

Yup: it's English-language deprivation at its finest (or worst, depending on your point of view). Did I mention that I hate Dan Brown?

I miss Get Smart :(

Cath said...

No doubt it would be more amusing if Tom Hanks was searching for the Tequila Mockingbird.

This Cat's Abroad said...

The last time Tom Spanks was even remotely amusing was when he was co-starring with Peter Scolari. And I mean remotely.

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