Thursday, January 12, 2012

You Can’t Find Movies Like That In California

Hollywood is the capital of movies, no doubt. Over the past century California led the “fantasy industry” that fed the dreams of millions. But with success came challenges… You cannot attract millions of viewers to a newly released movie unless you aim for common denominators (note: I didn't say the lowest common denominators...).  The pursuit of large audiences and big revenues led Hollywood down the path of tried and proven plots, such as “hero trumps villain”, “boy meets girl”, etc.  No wonder that “special effects” became a huge factor in Hollywood movies. If the stories are the same, then ‘presentation’ is even more important than content.

Hollywood dominates the theatres in America, pushing aside “quality movies” where screenplays are different, and the target audiences are smaller. It is hard to find a theatre where foreign movies or avant-garde movies (i.e. non-Hollywood) are shown.  The Sundance film festival tries to provide a stage for smaller, less known creators but it is a drop in the bucket.  The fact is that if you want to watch a movie in California, the odds are it will be a Hollywood one.

"All the Suns" - French/Italian movie
Not so in Israel. Of course there are plenty of Hollywood movies around, and you can watch a Hollywood movie around the same time it is released in the US. But there are also many other kinds of movies – French, Italian, British, Scandinavian and Israeli ones. As far as the latter, Israeli movies have come a long way over the past decade. Surprisingly enough, you can watch interesting, thought provoking and artistically accomplished movies made by our tiny local industry. 

The actual theatre experience is also different. In Israel theatre tickets have ‘assigned seats’, avoiding the race to find an empty chair when you enter the hall. The Israeli movie halls are usually smaller, with 10-15 rows, compared to around 50 rows in California. And most importantly – there are subtitles. I love listening to the original dialogue (be it in English, Hebrew or French) but I appreciate the quick glance at the subtitles which help me make up a word I may have missed, especially with loud sound effects in the background.

I happened to watch two movies this week – a French/Italian one and a Hollywood one.

Let’s start with the Hollywood one – the latest Sherlock Holmes movie, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. It was Hollywood at its best, and I am not being sarcastic. Fast pace plot (‘hero trumps villain’), witty dialogue, amazing special effects and world class cinematography. I was riveted to my chair, even though I knew that good old Sherlock and his companion Dr. Watson will undoubtedly triumph over their archenemy Professor Moriarty. Predictable, but fun. Entertainment at its best.

The second movie was a French/Italian one called “Tous Les Soleils”. The literal translation would have been “All the suns”, but the Hebrew translator took the liberty of naming it something like “The peacefulness in love” (השקט שבאהבה" (.  I guess that “love” sells better than “suns”…  It is a lovely movie about a quest for love, reconciliation and closure involving Allesandro - an Italian professor living in Strasbourg, France, his adolescent daughter and his pseudo-anarchist brother.  There are no special effects, no “witty dialogues”, and the plot is somewhat unpredictable.  I did not sit at the edge of my seat, biting my nails to find out whether the lonely professor will indeed find love. But the movie certainly evoked emotions and touched on questions about relationships and coping with loss.

I am relieved that Sherlock Holmes managed to the save the world, yet again. But I will continue to think about Allesandro long after I forget dear Sherlock.

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