Thursday, March 20, 2014

Audiovisual Pleasures when Traveling

Earlier this week I was travelling to and back from Prague, not on a plane, nor by car, neither by train. And exactly because of that, I was the blessing that is called free time immobilised. Why is that, you will ask. Let me explain: the aforementioned ways of travelling no matter how different they are, have one similar result: keeping us busy. Not sure if it applies to others, but for me taking the plane means a lot of organisation and serious item selection and separation (liquids here, heavy stuff there, fragile goods where?), which brings along stress, just like the never-ending controls, check-ins and so on so forth. Little time to rest and be peaceful/ready to concentrate on something other than the trip per se. Travelling by car implies company, and your company wants to converse, wants you to be a good dj and stuff, occasionally he even wants you to drive a little bit so that he gets some rest (what the fuck). No free time for extracurricular activities there. Train comes handy, cause it surely gives more time for contemplation; the voyage is normally long, but the landscape distracting, just like the various stops on the way. You cannot help listening to the bizarre names of the stops in between, noticing new passengers coming in or going out, staring at interesting strangers if not the strangely-shaped trees that for the fraction of a second collate with the horizon and little time is left for you to read or write, let alone watch a movie. Because, this is what I'm talking about: the impossible deed of watching a movie on the move.

But, yes, earlier this week I made it. I opted for a bus from Luxembourg to Prague, and, what a joy, I was left exhausted in my not-so-comfortable seat, ready to endure a ten-hour-trip armed with unusually quiet co-travellers and a small screen stuck on the back of the seat in front me. A vast (sic) choice of films and TV series awaited me. I finally had the time to fill my gaps when it comes to recent and not-so-recent cinematic releases. On the way to the exceptionally gothic Czech capital I watched Argo (2012), the oh-so-acclaimed film I once scoffed on the basis of its fame -sometimes too much praise gets on my nerves, you know- only to realise that it is a good film indeed. I love to find out that I was wrong; I enjoyed a messy and long-haired Ben Affleck, full of poise and secret agent allure, as much as I found the atmosphere in '79 Teheran intimidating and threatening, even a bit exaggerated so (been in Teheran ten years ago, the early years' roughness had worn off, but, oh well, it is an "unfree" place to a certain extent).

On my way back, I was even more determined: first, tried my luck with easy movies, like Arthur (2011) with Russel Brand who played the (silly) title character along the always hot Jennifer Garner and the always alternative Greta Gerwig. I didn't make it to the end of the film; same goes for my next hit on Ben Affleck playing the exact opposite of the Argo secret agent, a little-time-crook with shaved head and golden heart (sic) in a minor movie called The Town (2011), which features many nominations for its ensemble acting, as I found out later. Ben did a long way in the matter of a year (it takes more than a few steps from The Town to Argo)

My first unsuccessful attempts at entertainment cinema did not daunt me. On I went, to watch Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) and to enjoy every minute of it -except for the minute Rachel McAdams dropped dead, that is. At least Noomi Rapace compensated with her somehow embellishing  rather than active presence. Vigour and intellect combined in Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson; the latter got married in this instalment of the film-saga, but the detail did not convince me a bit. They are a divine couple, these two, and women are just by-standers. Period (still not sure what's the director's opinion on this, do you mind sharing your thoughts, Guy?)

After an admittedly long list of movies, please note that the peak of the night is not yet disclosed. The film I would happily watch a second time and would suggest to everyone who loves music is Hairspray (2007). Yes, themes of social injustice and inclusion are probably my soft spot; and portraying a palette of so many lively characters, one of them in drag - it's John Travolta who plays the overweight mum Edna Turnblad on screen-, among catchy tunes, wild dancing and a complementary message, that's my idea of educative entertainment. I haven't seen any musical production of Hairspray, neither the film by John Waters (I should), so I can't compare, but this is definitely an exciting version with a familiar cast of young and more mature actors: Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah and then James Marsden (big smile on my face), Zac Effron, Amanda Bynes and of course the cutest female lead Nikki Blonsky. You should watch it once per month for maximum effect and I should travel by bus more often.

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