In honor of Rome's fabulous Festival del Cinema currently taking place, I thought I’d offer my own little ‘movie-watching guide’ to the Bel Paese. After all, Italians are great movie buffs and the dubbing is exceptional, save for the super strange voice that crops up now and again (like hearing a high-pitched Cary Grant, or an L.A. gang member speak perfect Milanese). But, once you get over the fact that mouths don’t move quite in sync with the words, you’re good to go. You settle in your chair, and today, you can even enjoy a bucket of popcorn to munch on right by your side. It’s as good as it gets, or so you think.
Until comes that moment, somewhere halfway into the film, at that crucial point where scriptwriters, directors, costume designers and casting agents, actors and accountants, having spent literally millions to get you to extend all critical judgment, follow the story, hit the climax and actually... Believe.. in the magic of movies…
Suddenly, you are transported -- into a bright-lit auditorium, people chatting and flitting about as if in a cafè, and, if you’re lucky, you'll find a vendor wandering around offering you Coca Cola and ice cream.
You find yourself staring at the screen in absolute disbelief. It's like watching the last frame of Gallipoli, where the screen goes pitch black. You look up anxiously to the cameraman, hoping he is obviously taking care of the problem. Surely there must be a problem. I mean, the film just cut out – just like that – and in mid-sentence, no less. But then, in this split second of sheer panic, you are suddenly transfixed. On the screen, like a scene from Friday the 13th, something horrible has just appeared. Huge letters cross the screen: INTERVALLO.
And you spend that intervallo pondering the serious lobotomy of the person who could ever – ever – have actually thought this was a good idea. You place your bets on the candy seller, obviously the son of the cinema owner, who needed a leg up with his livelihood. You wonder if the floor can just open up underneath him and have him fall into a bottomless pit just like in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Then again, you think about how charming this all truly is, kind of reminding you of a Norman Rockwell painting of theater-going days gone by. You wonder how you could petition movie directors from Hollywood to Bollywood to get them to stop this virtual decapitation of their films.
Your mind continues to wander, but now the house lights are dimmed and the film is back on. By now, you have forgotten the entire plot. You pray they rewind a bit - just like at home when the phone rings while watching a movie. You struggle to find your way back to Siriana or Fargo, you try to be let back in to Willy Wonka’s factory and what was Wall-E doing 5 minutes ago? Finally, mercifully, you sink back in your chair and beg your brain to turn off the conversations going on in your head.
Sixteen years on, and each time, it hits me like I’ve just come face to face with Sigourney Weaver’s Alien. Enjoy the show!