World Cinema – the Titanic sinks… again!

Since I was younger I’ve had a morbid fascination with the Titanic. That and lawn mower blades and Nadia Comăneci… (but, some other time).  The Titanic is one of those things I don’t actually remember learning about it – like Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust or Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet.  Some things we just pick up by osmosis from a very young age and can’t quite pin point where we first learned of then.  You feel like you’ve always known about some stuff.  Same way the Small Child will probably never remember someone sitting him down and telling him about 911… he will grow up always having known something about it, and as he gets older more details will flesh out the story until he ends up with a more complete picture of that particular historical event.  Where as other things you remember quite clearly when you learned of them, like Mr Donovan in Year 4 Social Studies trying to teach us about Matthew Brady, Tasmania’s Gentleman Bushranger (how many years since I thought of that!).  But I digress…

The Titanic was a fascinatingly tragedy, it still is for many.  It always carried strong romantic notions, long before James Cameron got hold of it and turned it into a love story.  The anecdotes of the band playing on until the end, the very British notion of ‘women and children first’ into the life boats and the Captain going down with the ship.  Does anyone even think for a minute that that would ever happen now if one of those ‘If the Boat’s-A-Rockin’, Don’t Come-A-Knockin’ P&O cruise ships went down these days?  What a fucking nightmare that would be… compare Capt. Edward Smith of the Titanic with Capt. Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia who ‘tripped into a lifeboat’ before his passengers were safely off the boat last year off Italy.  Anyway, I digress… (again).

I went to see the 100th Anniversary re-release of Titanic in 3D (which I hate because it gives me a headache, but that’s another story) last night because I’m a bit sentimental like that… but not so much sentimental about the movie, or the story of the Titanic.  I wanted to go see it because I had originally seen the film when it was released in 1997 with my friend Scotty from Uni in London at the Odeon in Leicester Square.  We were in London working in photographic studios doing some work experience and generally larking about – going to museums, shopping, drinking and ‘doing’ London for a few months, then a bit of Paris and LA on the way home. For some reason all the hype surrounding the film caused us to want to go and see it… that and Kate Winslet is hot and we’d heard she gets naked.

It’s weird how going to a movie in a different country can be such a vastly different experience… at least until the lights go out, and then for the most part you could be anywhere.  In Munich, I saw Forrest Gump, or at least the long drawn out intro with the feather and the bit where he says (in a decidedly German and non-Gump-like voice) ‘Hallo, ich heiße Forest Gump’ and something about a box of pralines, before we bailed giggling like hyenas because the chick at the box office who assured us the film wasn’t dubbed into German obviously didn’t have a good grip of English after all.  In Amsterdam, I saw a dreadful Bruce Willis film in a cinema where people were smoking, alcohol was available at the candy bar and the movie was stopped in the middle of a spectacularly bad speedboat chase scene so people could go out and get more beers.  In Istanbul, patrons had to go through metal detectors to go to the cinema and this time the intermission was so people could go out for a smoke, but from memory they at least chose a reasonable place to pause the film.

But going to the cinema in London was a different experience again, we were caught off guard that we could buy our movie tickets weeks in advance (a trend that has caught on a bit Down Under now) and that there was allocated seating. But what really was the stand out strangeness moment of going to see Titanic on a 95 foot screen with balcony seats (?) in London, was the strange dude sitting where an orchestra pit would be, playing a really old fashioned organ that someone had tizzied up in the 80s with some neon lights to entertain the crowd until everyone was seated.  How bizarre? We sat there laughing at this dude, in our allocated seats of course, until the curtain finally went up and we were smashed in the face with the usual loud advertising and trailers for forthcoming movies.

Anyway, seeing Titanic on the big screen was fun, even if it was in 3D, and even if it was much longer than I remembered, and even if the chairs were so dreadful that my back pain ramped up something fierce.  Thanks Yale for coming with, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you had bailed half way through!

PS – I wonder if the Odeon still has an organist playing before movie showings…

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