30 January 2012

Gran Ciné Bardot

Our Gran Ciné Bardot
For those of us who love stage and screen, the cultural life of Búzios revolves around our little 111-seat movie theater, the Gran Ciné Bardot. Without it we might all have had to move. The theater was built about 18 years ago by a passionate cinephile, Mario José Paz, one of the hundreds of Argentines who fell in love with Búzios and have made it their home. To this day the Ciné Bardot is the only game in town, but we wouldn't want it any other way. The theater is both glamorous and relaxed, accessible to all yet intimate, a place to meet like-minded movie buffs and stay late into the night talking celluloid at the theater's café/bar.

The very first movie Mark and I saw at the Ciné Bardot was Woody Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. I don't remember which we liked best, the movie, the comfy, red leather chairs or the old movie posters all over the place. Since that first screening we have kept an eager eye on the weekly programming. There are the occasional blockbuster new releases, especially during high season, and we understand that that's good for business. But Mario José hasn't forgotten his core audience, and there's always some Iranian or Chinese or Romanian movie as counterbalance. Occasionally there's a surprise. Some years ago I think Mario José just had a hankering to rewatch Casablanca, so he opened the theater on an off night and showed the film to a very appreciative audience. I don't think I had ever seen the film on the big screen. What a treat!

Mario José Paz
Mario José and his Ciné Bardot are the dapper host and elegant setting of the annual Búzios International Film Festival, but even so it remains a small-town operation. Years ago, as Mark and I waited to go in to see the hip-hop rapper film 8 Mile — give me a break, there was nothing else playing that weekend and it wasn't a bad movie — we saw Mario José's wife, Ana, casually hanging around the lobby, near the ticket window. When a group of young kids tried to buy tickets to this R-rated film, she sweetly, but firmly, intervened. "Does your Mom know you're here?" she asked the oldest kid. "Oh, yeah, sure..." he answered. "Give me your cell phone," and Ana hit fast dial number one, knowing there'd be a parent at the other end. The two oldest kids? They got to go in. But the two youngest, eight and ten, stayed outside with Ana until their parents came to pick them up. I have to say, we were impressed.

Shanah, in charge of it all, far right; Woody Allen, far left
Mario José has a personal collection of nearly 4,000 DVDs, and two years ago he decided to share them and expand into a video rental operation. To our abiding gratitude he opened the Ciné Bardot Videoteca. For a monthly fee of 50 reais ($28), members of the video club have unlimited access to this extraordinary collection. Who'd have thought we'd get the chance to rewatch Double Indemnity, The Man Who Would be King, Hannah and Her Sisters, The 400 Blows, not to mention all of Fellini, Chabrol, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Cassavetes, Capra, Kieslowski — the list is endless, and the depth of this collection is remarkable. In recent months we've watched all three seasons (106 episodes) of HBO's In Treatment, all 15½ hours of Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz and all 9½ hours of Claude Lanzmann's Shoah. Whew! A few months ago Netflix expanded into Brazil and showered us with "one free month" membership offers. So we took a look at the movies they were offering. We found nothing — nothing at all — to rival the treasure trove we already have.


  1. Tell the photographer I loved this shot of yours.

  2. What a romantic post. Wonderful. Especially to the sound of Rádio MEC. I wish I had had these experiences.