Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cinema under the Stars

For me, summer in Vienna means sitting in a couple of parks here and watching great movies on the big screen as night falls around us. Maybe it brings back memories of the Chief Drive-In movie theatre in Austin, Texas, where I would sit in our Oldsmobile, or on top of it, and watch something like Patton, with George C. Scott, on an airless summer night. Weather being what it is here, my more typical Vienna experience has been the night I sat through 2001, riveted, despite the light drizzly rain and damp plastic seats. Guess I haven't really grown up much--when a movie is fantastic, or even just okay, I'll stick around to the bitter end.

Tonight, I'm in the Augarten, in a small grove of trees, surrounded by a white picket fence and crickets, looking up at an empty turquoise screen and waiting for The Great Rock and Roll Swindle. It's been years since I've seen it, and I remember it as a swindle itself. But almost any movie is better when the house lights are hung from trees and moths play across the screen before the feature presentation.

(Note from several hours later: I remembered correctly. Swindle is better as a document than a movie; if you stretch and strain a bit, you can see a great band underneath all of Malcolm McLaren's mercenary cleverness. I timed all my trips to the bar so that I missed some of their manager's witty, unwatchable scenes, but none of the grainy footage of the Sex Pistols themselves.)

I go to the Augarten or the Prater film festivals to see films I've never heard of, and others I've seen already. The other night, even though the skies were light gray and threatening rain, I rode our family bike--the clunker with the kid's seat--over to the park to puzzle through Memento again. The place was almost completely empty when I arrived, and the guy at the ticket office told me they'd canceled the showing because of the weather.

"The movie's playing at the Gartenbau Kino, instead," he said, naming one of Vienna's most fabulous (indoor) movie theaters. "You've got time to make it over there."

"But there, it's just another movie," I smiled, as I turned to leave.

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