Tuesday, 11 January 2022

Going to the cinema. Old films and new versions. Animé and real actors. Coffee.

Today I went to the cinema for the first time in ages. Of course, we had to wear facemasks but that’s one of the oddities of the times we are living in.

I went to see Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” with my number 2 granddaughter, the 18 year old. We’ve been planning it for what seems like weeks, hunting out an easily accessible cinema close to us that was showing it and finding a time when she wasn’t working and ai wasn’t busy doing other things. And today was the day!

Of course, as Sod’s Law would have it, today the buses between here and Ashton were on strike! So in the end I had to send for a taxi to take me to her house, collect her and then carry on to the cinema. 

We arrived in plenty of time, so we sought out a coffee place. The cinema itself has a Starbucks in the complex but I object to Starbucks. Their coffee is not great and they serve it in great big quantities. We walked over to a Costa Coffee just across the way. As we got close a chap in a car slowed down and asked us, “Going to Costa? The shop’s closed but the drive-through is open.” Helpful! He could have let us carry on regardless. Drive through is no good when you want to sit inside. All the other eateries were proper restaurants and we didn’t want a full meal. Starbucks it had to be. A flat white is the smallest poor quality coffee they do. My granddaughter had a frappucino - a chilled concoction of whipped cream and chocolate with the merest hint of coffee. She accompanied this with a bacon sandwich, an unusual combination! 

I opted for banana bread for a snack. Alongside it on the display was a notice that said “Fancy butter”. So I asked the young man serving what was fancy butter. He looked at me in puzzlement and said, “Just Lurpak”. Ah, the notice should have said “Fancy butter?” That ? makes all the difference. Yes, I did fancy butter. The banana bread was good, the coffee indifferent.

Eventually we found our way into the section of the cinema where our film was showing. We seemed to be the only ones there. If that had continued, we might have risked taking our masks off. However, gradually about a dozen people straggled in. “I’m the youngest here”, whispered my granddaughter, “I bet they’ve all seen the original.”

I had recently seen the original again as it popped up on BBC iPlayer. My granddaughter hasn’t seen it. I don’t think they have a TV licence and they certainly watch most stuff on Netflix and the Disney Channel and Amazon Prime.

We sat through a good half hour of adverts for all sorts of stuff you might not want to buy and trailers for more films coming soon, including a version Cyrano de Bergerac, with the actor who played Tyrion in Game of Thrones as Cyrano, and with songs! But no rhyming couplets in perfect alexandrines. I reckon I’ll have to rewatch the Gerard Depardieu film, with the original French soundtrack (in perfect alexandrines) translated into subtitles in beautiful rhyming couplets in English by Anthony Burgess. I never know whether to listen to the French or read the English. These are no ordinary subtitles!

Anyway, eventually the film started. Some critics have compared it unfavourably with the original “West Side Story” but I thought this new version was fine. It was reasonably faithful to the original. You can’t really change New York that much. Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the original film, played an older Puertoriqueña, linking the two versions nicely. She was also an executive director on the new version.  

There were some splendid vintage old cars driving around. There was a bit more back story, which was good. The singing and dancing was magnificent - such wonderful songs, such wonderful dresses to swirl and swing. And inevitably, there was the sadness of the Romeo and Juliet story.

My granddaughter watches a lot of Disney. I sometimes think she watches too many films aimed at younger people - no, aimed at kids - all that Disney stuff. She has been raving about “Encanto” recently, a story loosely based, it seems, on the García Márquez novel, “Cien años de soledad”, but all done with big-eyed animé characters. And she watches a lot of this stuff on her laptop or iPad.

I thought it was time she saw a proper film, with proper actors, in a proper cinema again. After all, we once sneaked her mother, then aged 12, into a cinema to watch “Dances with Wolves”.

And she loved it. 

We walked back from the cinema complex to her house at the end of a fine afternoon, with a bit of sunset sky and a fine growing moon up there. We’d just missed a tram back to Ashton so our walk was a bit longer than planned, about 40 minutes. Plenty of time to discuss the film we had just seen. A good afternoon’s activity.

And her stepfather gave me a lift home eventually. All good.

Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!

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