Au cinema


When Facebook profile (soon to be called Timeline) needs me to complete my favorite movie section, I put down Cinema Paradiso.

It’s in Blu-ray now (Oscar-winning, well-preserved quality). It’s about growing up in an Italian village, with the cinema , Cinema Paradiso, as central theme. It was later demolished to make room for a parking lot. It’s a coming-of-age movie, with movie house no longer pro-fit-able (like Friendly’s ice-cream chain).  It mourned for the Best of youth, with melancholy and nostalgia.

It’s every man and woman’s twist-and-turn of fate, like an amusement park ride.

Mine was also related to a neighborhood cinema, one of dozen own by my uncle.

So I got in free, double or single features. My cousin just waved me in, no ticket was required.

I shed a lot of tears there in that darkened theatre.

I also watched Woodstock, the movie, a couple of times (Ten Years After, remember?) and was amazed at the energy and freedom of  American youth.

I even took my first date there, and half way through the movie, we sneaked out for a smoothie.

The theater is now own by someone else while both my uncle and cousin were no longer with us.

I sat across the street from it on one of my trips back to Vietnam. After I had finished my smoothie, I stood up and did not look back.

One cannot swim in the same current twice.

Yet, like the character in Cinema Paradiso, I often wonder what’s like to have lived the second time around.

Would I be embarrassed by a sudden surge of youthful feelings?

Can grown-ups like me indulge in another treat that of a child?

Will my first date and I even recognize each other however precarious the encounter may turn out to be?

I wish I could fade in the music piece (Cinema Serenade) from the movie right now.

It never fails to bring back scenes from the movie, but also, scenes from our own interrupted lives.

It’s so Italian yet so universal. “Go, don’t come back here”.

A little over ten years ago, they demolished a drive-in theater in Southern California to build a Walmart. Every time I drove past that site, I couldn’t help thinking of the old drive-in (teenagers were denied another place to hang out, unlike when my cousin took the projector home to show family wedding clips to hundreds of kids out in the open).

I guess that same sentiment was a trigger for the making of Cinema Paradiso: the loss of a gathering point, a common space and screen where we all are projectionists (self-projection). People nap, snore, kiss, eat and sometimes, just escape summer heat.

Now, we got home theaters (buy now, pay later) but it’s a solitary not communal act of viewing.

And certainly, no adult is going to take time to show a kid how to load a film reel inside the projections booth, or as in my case, wave me in to see a movie for free.

Yes, it’s now in Blu-ray: neither grainy nor counting down (or waiting for the second projector to kick in during intermission.) And certainly no attendant with flash light.

Technology (digital) brings change, at neck-breaking speed (hockey-stick curve), while our ability to adopt is bell-shaped.

I have waited for Alvin Toffler to come out with more of his series (which began with Future Shock). But apparently, yesterday’s futurist is today’s museum curator.

The thing with speed is, like the bullet train in Shanghai, no one knows how damaging the impact is going to be when two fast-flying objects collide.

I felt that gnawing in my stomach when taken up to the top of an amusement ride. I know it will soon drop me mercilessly with kids sitting behind screaming like characters in a horror movie.

The best scene in Cinema Paradiso was the one which our Toto enjoyed a stress-free ride leaving Alfredo with all the hard pedaling.

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