Thursday, August 10, 2006

Beach Flick

Remember the old Frankie Avalon Beach Blanket movies? The plot was pretty much the same in all of them…Frankie and Annette Funicello running around the beach, barely getting wet in the surf, dancing in long-outdated, now-funny moves upon the sand to fake background music that faded out when they had dialogue. Or the teeny-bopper movies that all seem to follow a formula: teenage angst with apparently over-bearing parents, a break for some kind of freedom, the set-back or ensuing crisis point that requires more angst for a solution, all interlaced with sex or some other coming-of-age situation and a get-the-girl ending? The formulas are universal, as we discovered when we attended our first movie in Italy.

We had been given a free pass to a movie that was filmed last fall here in Anzio, at the stretch of beach and the very restaurant and stabilimento of which I’ve written, as it happens. “Our” lifeguard, a weather-beaten, sea-dog kind of guy who we see frequently, is featured in his acting debut. The restaurant owner was passing out tickets and we happened to be with the right people. A friend of Francesca’s offered us a ride to town to attend, and, having not seen any movies in a while, figured, what the heck. So what if we couldn’t understand the dialogue? It’s a beach film, after all, how deep can it be?

It turned out to be the film’s premier. Not just the opening in the Anzio theatres, but the actual national premier, complete with the actors and director in attendance. We were allowed in only because we had the coveted freebie ticket. We sat between the two rows of reserved seating, set aside for the production crew and various VIPs. Surprisingly, the whole affair was much lower-key than would be in the US, but then Italians are pretty laid back anyway. Sure, there was the popping of flashing bulbs, the smiles, the giddy girls, the clamoring for a good seat well in advance of the start of the movie, but no red carpet, no overdressed starlets…just a casual entrance of the stars, a few words by the director, and the crack of sound and images to begin the main event.

Astonishingly – and maybe this was only because it was a premier and not a run-of-the-mill flick – I heard only one cell phone tinkle and people were actually quiet through the showing, not as I’d expected the normally-verbal Italians to behave in a theatre. There was an intermission, not as long as a stage theater, but enough for the cigarette-dependent to run for a puff. Popcorn, licorice, and refreshments are available, but not at a long, front-and-center, neon-stripped counter which serves as a gauntlet one must bypass, as in the US, but rather in a narrow, cramped room off a little hallway. One has to have the urge and know the room is there to obtain goodies (not many partook). I learned from the entrance sign that normal evening admission costs only 4 Euro; matinees are 2.50. The usual starting time for an evening film is 10:00, rather than the 8:00 showing so common at home.

It turned out that we guessed correctly; knowledge of the language wasn’t too necessary. We understood abbastanza. I easily picked out the obscenities that I’d heard as a child, words that floated into my memory when I heard them, and I snickered a bit, not because the words or situations were really funny but because I hadn’t known I had remembered them; Bryan was clueless until later when I explained the words. "Che ci faccio qui?" is about a sweet-looking boy is supposed to blow town with his buddies after graduation for a tour of Europe, culminating in a concert in Budapest. He doesn’t make the grade and must stay behind. Angry, he sneaks out and takes off on his motorino, ending up on the beach, out of luck and money, where he must work to get his motorino fixed. Loud, contemporary music, a bit of beach dancing, the obligatory sex scene with an older woman, a moment of soul-searching, then true love with a girl his age pretty much wraps up the plot as they ride off into the proverbial sunset on the motorino with the closing music blasting them on their merry way. But it was rather funny and cute, and I did understand more of the conversations than I had expected to, and it was just fun to see the places which we’ve come to know in our short residence here, even to see faces we recognize, on a movie screen. A night of fun at the movies, and an experience of a film premiere all in one. Not shabby for a couple of hangers-on Americani in a little beach town.

copyright 2006 Valerie Schneider

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