Going to movies in Paris: The one where we sat on the floor
Going to the movies in Paris is always a special experience. For one thing, France is the birthplace of cinema, so there is a little more prestige than rocking up to your local Hoyts. Film is a topic of great national pride in this country - there are hefty government subsidies in place to encourage local production, and I have even heard unverified claims that subsidies are in place to bring down the cost of tickets. Although it hardly seems necessary. Parisians head to the movies in droves, quickly crowding out the quaint theaterettes. Not a single - improbably tiny - seat is spared.
One positive thing for foreigners going to the movies in Paris is that most non-French films are shown in the Original Version (OV), simply overlaid with French subtitles (sidenote: am I the only person who gets fascinated/distracted by the subtitle translation and sometimes forgets to just watch the damn film?).
Shortly after I arrived in Paris, I made plans with a friend to see an OV film as a cute Saturday afternoon activity. We decided to go to the Louxor, which FYI is my favourite cinema in the entire world (despite the experience which I am about to relate to you).
As a preface to my story, I want to mention to you that my love of the movies is one part love of film and two parts love of eating snack-food in the dark. In Australia I am not alone in this. The line for popcorn in any Australian cinema would attest to the popularity of movie snacking, and popcorn vendors are pretty much charging whatever the hell they like. As a Parisian movie newb, I imagined that this phenomenon might also exist in France (how I underestimated the Parisian disdain for the humble snack-food). So I did what any sensible person would do and purchased some snacks in advance: Kale chips.
It is true that I thought about snacks before I thought about tickets (you can take a girl out of Australia..) but they were not entirely forgotten. Paragons of pre-planning, my friend and I had purchased said tickets in advance, and diligently arrived 10 minutes before the film to collect them. OK, so we may have been a couple minutes late, but we had tickets people, so we thought we were tranquilles. Imagine our surprise then, on entering the theatre to find NO seats left. Not a single one. Zip. Nada.
We noticed a small group of people congregated at the back of the cinema, seating themselves on the floor and settling in for what would surely be the least comfortable cinematic experience of their lives. I mean, I have already noted that cinema seats are smaller in France, but I expected them to at least exist!
For a second we toyed with the idea of descending to the ticket booth to ask for our money back. But we had already come this far. We wanted to see the movie. I had snacks!
So we sighed, rolled our eyes, and slumped against the wall.
By this stage the lights had already gone down and the previews were blasting out their final notes. By the time we sat down, the opening credits had already appeared on the screen. Ten minutes into the movie, I realised that in the confusion I had completely forgot to open my snacks!
So I don’t know if you have ever tried to open up a bag of snacks after the movie has already started, but I’m here to tell you that it’s very loud. As I initiated the manoeuvre, a tearing sound erupted through the cinema like a thunder clap (of course I also chose a lull in the dialogue to attack the bag of kale chips, which didn’t really help). Appalled, I halted myself mid-tear. However this left me in the unenviable position of sitting on the floor in the cinema, having just bombarded the audience with ear-splitting noise, and holding in my hands a partially opened bag of kale chips.
Maybe it was due to the fact I had forgeone a comfortable seating option, maybe it was due to the fact that my snacks were vegan; gluten-free; dairy-free; and sugar-free, but I was feeling a bit self-righteous. I decided there was nothing for it than to continue the kale-chip-opening operation from the back of the cinema.
They say when you’re removing a bandaid, it’s better to just rip it off quickly, all in one go. I couldn’t quite bring myself to repeat the thunder-clap, however, so the kale-chip-opening operation was conducted in a drawn out and russly process, which began to attract the glares and exasperated sighs of our fellow movie-goers. (To be fair, it even began to attract the ire of my friend, who shot me a look that seemed to say “Is it really worth it? For kale chips?”)
At that point, the man in the row in front turned around and let out a particularly exasperated sigh. I couldn’t help it: “It’s not as if they’re listening to the dialogue anyway,” I hissed passive-aggressively to my friend, “they’re all reading the subtitles!”
Glares times a thousand ensued. The irony that they understood English, yet persisted in reading the subtitles, was not lost on me.
To top it all off, those kale chips tasted like ass. And if I remember correctly the movie was pretty blah. When the curtain came down and the lights faded back on, it hardly seemed worth it to rise stiff-backed only to flee the cinema in order to escape the wrath of our fellow audience.
And yet, les amis, some important lessons were learned. We vowed to reserve movies tickets in advance and to arrive early no matter what. Oh, and we vowed never to bring kale chips to the movies. (Maybe never to eat kale chips again?)
Have you ever been to the movies in Paris? Was your experience as disastrous as ours?