Ah, the movies in China. Flashing lights, suspense, excitement, funny smells, and sound effects – and that’s before the film has even started!
There’s a cinema a mere stone’s throw from Block Six (our building). It’s often empty and one feels a sense of “social responsibility” to attend such a venue if only to delay its inevitable demise. Many expats now avoid this form of entertainment due to the peculiarities of movie-going in China.
Frodo Baggins (Lord of the Rings) was no match for the afternoon sun when the cinema door opened. Liam Neeson got drowned out by audience chatter like some hapless politician. We’ve observed Minions (Despicable Me) being sworn at and, most surprisingly, Darth Vader being interrupted by a man on his mobile phone. Who’d have thought?
Darth Vader: “I’m altering the deal, pray I don’t alter it… “
Uncouth man: “Lao Xiong, I’m in the cinema watching Star Wars! Yes, it’s really good though I can’t understand what they’re saying! Tonight? Yes, I’ll meet you for dinner at 7pm”
Once, the Chinese subtitles were out of sync with the (Western) actor’s voices, confusing many and leading to an audience walkout. We had the remaining 90 minutes to ourselves that day. Bliss.
A Dog’s Way Home, a fluffy family film about a dog finding its way home, was attended by four people (my daughter and I, plus an elderly Cantonese couple who talked loudly throughout). Recent cinematic experiences had seemed okay so we decided to see…
There was a choice of Dumbo or the second Lego Movie. We chose the former. Surely there couldn’t be anyone attending the theatre on a Friday morning (it was the Qingming Festival too). Well, there was a good-sized crowd including a former student who bellowed my name and drew everyone’s attention to the presence of a foreigner.
The movie started and we (daughter and I) had the entire fourth row to ourselves. Pure heaven. Late arrivers were being ushered to their seats in different rows.
The Dumbo movie was 15 minutes in when a middle-aged staff member walked towards us, torch in hand. Perhaps she’d spotted us eating snacks from home. No, she was a solo movie-goer and that wasn’t a torch. It was an iPhone. Perhaps she was seated in our row. Maybe she was sitting right next to me despite the six other EMPTY seats available. She crashlanded in her seat, employed my drink holder for her Pepsi and her drink holder for the popcorn. There was also a faint whiff of body odour. No, I’m not being nasty.
She laughed, slurped, squirmed, wriggled, jolted upright, and at one point turned abruptly to stare at us. It was just like being in economy class.
The movie was engaging. Monkeys, snakes, clowns, a one-armed man (Colin Farrell), a very short man (Danny DeVito), an Oscar winner (Michael Keaton) and plenty of exquisite set designs. Woman-with-glasses was forgotten for the next 40 minutes until she started checking her phone. The iPhone’s glow was more obvious than Dumbo’s ears.
Suddenly, a restless toddler stood up from behind and whacked the woman’s head! Triumph!
Karma they say is a… breath of fresh air!!
Ratings (out of 10)
Audience behaviour: 6.5 (Well done Guangzhou!)