Together at The Movies

While the building we live in is a modern one (completed sometime in 2008 and can be still be seen in all its under-construction glory on google street view) the houses in the neighbourhood are not. Most of them are at least a hundred years old, a few even older. Among them stands a quaint theatre (marquee lights and all) that we’d always walk past, but never enter. Yesterday, that changed. The theatre, among its selection of movies, had two movies that we’ve been wanting to see - The Artist and Carnage. The former was sold out but we were just in time to secure two tickets for the latter.

The theatre started screening movies in 1912. Entering the building is like going back a few decades in time. The theatre is an odd juxtaposition of the old and the new. The show timings are written in chalk on a blackboard pinned to the wall near the box office, while the person issuing the tickets uses a Windows machine with a modern ticket-selling software. There are no popcorn and coke stalls but there is an attached bar and a restaurant.

The MoviesThe Movies

The hall where Carnage was playing was small - 50-60 people small. The screen was quite small too - 1/4th or 1/3rd the size of your typical modern-day multiplex. There was an air of intimacy about the hall and most people looked like they were not just regulars, but patrons for decades. Bringing in a glass of wine was allowed and a cup of cappuccino was fine too. The rows of seats in theatre these days are on individual steps of a giant staircase. Here the floor was an inclined plane. As the projector came on for the pre-movie ads, you could see motes of dust doing their Brownian waltz in the beam of its light. From our last row seat I could’ve stood up and have a giant shadow of my head projected on the screen. It felt as if a grainy, B&W newsreel from 1940s would start playing any minute. But the quality of the projection defied the ambience. The images were bright, sharp and most likely high-definition digital. As the 4:3 trailers made way for the 16:9 letter-box movie, two black shutters covered the unused portion of the screen. The sound might not be Dolby or whatever European equivalent is used in theatres here, but it was clear and, more importantly, at just the right volume.

It was refreshing to not be told to switch off the cellphones. They were either respecting the building’s desire to feign oblivion to this late 20th century invention or admitting the maturity of the audience.

The movie was brilliant too. This conversation; perfectly ordinary anywhere else, was made special by the fact that we were watching this movie in Amsterdam:

NANCY Those tulips are gorgeous.

PENELOPE It’s that little florist way up on Henry, you know? The one all the way up.

NANCY Oh right.

PENELOPE They fly the bulbs in straight from Holland, twenty dollars a load.

At which point a faint chuckle ran through the hall.

Tickets for tomorrow’s 3 PM show of The Artist have been procured. We cannot think of a more apt place to watch a 2-D, B&W, silent film. Fate has dealt us a kind hand. I only have to remind myself that we had started 2009 with Amir Khan’s Ghajini to feel grateful.

January 7, 2012