Watching Woody Allen in Barcelona

If you are a Woody Allen fan… if you have been watching his movies for years and care more about a good laugh than his choice of romantic partners… then you would have LOVED Saturday’s 10:40 p.m. showing of “Scoop” at Barcelona’s Cinema Verdi.

I have been to three Barcelona theatres that show V.O. films (Version Original means that the film is shown in the language in which it was filmed – with Spanish subtitles). Cineplex Yelmo Icaria is a North American style cineplex with 12 or 14 screens. It is located in the basement of a mall in the center of what served as the Olympic Village in 1992; it is so close to the ocean that you can smell the sea as you walk down the sidewalk to the theatre. You can check out the current yelmo listings at Seeing a movie at yelmo is a commitment… 2 metro lines and a 45 minute trip.

Much closer to home is the Casablanca Kaplan with just 2 screens. “Nine Lives” is the only film I have seen there but the Kaplan reminds me of that old rep theatre on Princess Street in Kingston… the one that closed while I was doing my Masters at Queen’s. (Oh no… I am losing my memories). The theatre is run by two very serious young people clad in the rep theatre uniform of head-to-toe black. You are greeted (perhaps too strong a verb for what actually takes place)… acknowledged by the girl who sells the tickets and popcorn and, after standing in line with other earnest people clad in black, a young guy tears your ticket and allows you to enter your screening room. This is serious cinema for serious people.

As a point of comparison, a movie here costs around 6 euros and 50 cents… with the exchange, that is around $9.50 in Canadian dollars. I am happy to say that popcorn and a coke is cheaper in Barcelona than in Canada… but Mexico still has everybody beat in the arena of affordable movie snacks. Some films are released at the same time as (or even earlier than) in North American theatres but, generally speaking, we get our movies later. “An Inconvenient Truth” is on our movie-wish list and it was released here on Friday, November 3rd. We will also see “The Departed” and “One Good Year” in the next week or two; all are recent releases in Barcelona.

And then there is Cinema Verdi. Located in the heart of Gracia, this place is an independent film institution. There are five screens at the main theatre on Calle Verdi, number 32, and another four screens at Verdi Park which is just around the corner on Calle Torijos, number 49. You can check out their website at:
On Friday night we ate dinner at a great Mexican restaurant called “Cantina Machito” where they serve amazing mole and chilaquiles; it was actually our second visit. (The first time we were there, we noticed a painting of the Virgen of Guadalupe and candles just inside the front door. Good sign, we thought. We were finishing our meal when we noticed the waiters and waitresses rushing madly around… putting out a fire. It was the Virgen… but they managed to save her). After dinner, we went next door to Verdi Park to check out the movie times. The woman at the ticket counter rolled her eyes at my Spanish but I persevered, undaunted by her snottiness. We decided to return to see either “Scoop” or “Departed” the following day.

When we arrived at the main entrance of Cinema Verdi at 10:20 p.m. on Saturday night, we found a huge crowd milling about outside the theatre. We couldn’t tell, at first, where we were supposed to stand/line up but we went with our gut feeling that the VERY long line was for people who had (wisely) arrived earlier and had already bought their tickets. It soon became clear that we would need to push through the crowd in order to get to the ticket window and it will surprise absolutely no one that i was the push-er (DP is so polite). With “Scoop” tickets in hand, we then joined the back of the line; a couple of hundred people were waiting in line in front of us (in a country not known for its great affinity for the line-up) to see the latest Woody Allen film starring Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman and Woody, himself. As we stood in line listening to fragments of conversation in English, Spanish and Catalan, I was reminded of the scenes in “Annie Hall” in which Woody and Diane Keaton’s characters wait in line to see films. Woody Allen would have loved this Barcelona scene… these artsy and bohemian Spaniards smoking like chimneys while waiting to see his film.

The theatre itself was large and very cool… it was the old fashioned type in which the floor slopes down from the front. As the theatre filled up, we snuggled into our tall comfy seats near the back; I must admit that I have never seen a Woody Allen movie play to a packed theatre. When the film began, people fell SILENT as we all worshipped together in the temple of cinema. And then Woody would deliver one of his great goofy Woody lines like: “I just met this woman from Manchester and I thought to myself… where do they get these people?” and the people laughed and laughed and laughed.

This audience at Cinema Verdi… these are Woody’s people. They might be ours too… our Saturday night movie people. Our cinema-loving tribe.

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