07 May 2012

Watchin' Movies

Part of our movie life in early 2010
I don't remember exactly why Mark and I felt we needed to take a little notebook and write down the title of every single movie we saw after moving to Brazil. Perhaps because we were seeing more movies than ever before? Perhaps because our memories had jointly begun to fail? Perhaps we thought this would be an Important List That Would Mean Something to Somebody Someday? To be honest, I admit that I do have this kind of obsessive behavior in my blood. I own, for example, a collection of playbills of every single play or show I ever saw from 1968 (Gilbert Bécaud at Carnegie Hall) to our attendance two weeks ago at Bibi Ferreira's one-woman tour-de-force in honor of her 90 years on stage, with each show's ticket stubs neatly slipped between the pages of the playbills. (Hmm, I wonder what this collection would fetch on Ebay? But I digress.) Once we were happily ensconced in our little town of Búzios, with its one movie theater (introduced in my blogpost of January 30th) we realized that movies would be a big chunk of our cultural life. And so, between that movie theater and several video rental stores, our movie list was spawned.

I have been as faithful as possible in keeping the list up-to-date, give or take occasional human lapses. I don't usually include films that we turn on and turn off within five minutes, either. As of this writing, we have seen 1,460 films in ten years, or 146 films a year, about 12.2 films a month. Put that way, it doesn't seem like much. But juxtaposed with a fairly normal life full of other things to do, I feel we're holding our own. And I don't just write down the titles, either. I've taken to adding a one-sentence "blurb," something to remember the film by, à la Howard Thompson, the former New York Times film critic famous for inventing and writing those pithy capsule reviews for the Times television listings. I don't come close to his wit, but I have fun trying.

To be seen . . . one day
I joked above about our faulty memories, but it really is hard to keep all these movie titles in your head, especially when they're in different languages. Say we read a review in English about a French movie and decide we want to see that film. That's two titles we have to remember (i.e., La Graine et le Mulet in the original French, and Couscous in English). Then that movie is released here in Brazil under a Portuguese name (O Segredo do Grão). That's three titles now swimming around in the deep end of our heads, and the titles are not always direct translations, either, which complicates things. Now we keep yet another list in another notebook, this one of films to-be-seen, along with all their titles, so that at any given moment in a video rental store we know where we are. Sort of.

I'm in charge of keeping a third list, too, but this one is just for the fun of it. "Film Nationality Count" is its name. The United States tops the list at 737 films, with France in second place (139) and Brazil in third (133). Could this list possibly be of any interest to anyone? Does it say anything about anything? I think it does, actually. I'm convinced that our living abroad has opened up our film-watching options. We may not see all the films that are released in the States, and we may never see all the films on my to-be-seen list, but we see plenty of high-quality cinema that never makes it to the U.S., and that's unfortunate for the American public. And I'm not so sure that even in New York we would have seen as many Argentine films as we have, or Israeli, or Afghani, or Uruguayan, or Turkish, or Mongolian, particularly now that Kim's Video is closed. Our movie lists are a good, solid history of a decade's-worth of cultural life. They track our tastes, they track what's available to us and they track our travels. They even show when we went from watching VHS to watching DVD (in 2005, we were slow). See you at the movies!

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