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Monday, July 2, 2012

An Evening at Ritz Cinema: Part 4

Waiting for the show to start

My wife and I had come here to experience a James Herriot connection.  Ritz Cinema was the site of James and Helen’s second date.  Although it turned out to be more disastrous than their first, the evening gave the couple what James had sought: a new beginning.  In visiting a place that had proven an important stepping-stone in James and Helen’s relationship, we hoped for a more enjoyable experience than theirs.

Fifteen minutes before the movie was due to start, the curtain rolled up, and the projector rolled out a series of TV-style commercials.  Even though the screen was smaller than what we were used to in the modern multiplexes, the picture was sharp and bright.  Herriot records that the sound system blared that evening as if it had been designed for the Royal Albert Hall, and they cowered under its assault.  To us, the sound seemed better attuned to the size of the cinema than what we’re used to back home.  Nor did we have to wade through twenty minutes of movie trailers after the scheduled start-time.  Instead, we saw one preview for “The Avengers,” and if memory serves, that occurred immediately before 7:30, when the movie was due to start.

On that evening so long ago, James had looked forward to watching a movie about the Hebrides, an archepalago of the coast of James' homeland of Scotland.  Instead, after the Gaumont News, they had watched the main film first, one he describes as a tender love story.  Then, after the intermission, the screen lit up with a western he called “Arizona Guns.”  Helen takes this in stride, mentioning that the staff often played a different movie from that promised, “but no one seems to mind.”  Yet this irritates James, and he simmers as “the ancient horse opera crackles out its cliché-ridden message.”

Ritz Cinema: the perfect place
to purchase your next automobile

Tonight, Ritz Cinema offered only one movie.  I suppose “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” could be described as a tender love story. We view events through two characters: Fred, played by Ewan McGregor (who played Obi-Wan in the Star Wars prequels) and Harriet, played by Emily Blunt (who, sadly, didn’t play a part in the Star Wars movies.  She played Miss Piggy’s secretary in the recent Muppet movie though, so perhaps that’s some consolation).  As the story unfolds, the experiences Fred and Harriet share gradually draw them together.  The rich Sheikh Muhammad seeks to achieve the unthinkable: to bring salmon to his desert country.  Aided by Harriet, and employing a blend of research and optimism, he slowly convinces Fred to stop limiting his horizons by grounding every decision of his life on proven facts.

Back home, I know audiences would have missed much of the humor.  Each country has its own cultural outlook.  Those unfamiliar with that of another nation may appreciate the broad strokes, but miss the subtleties.  Certainly our years of learning about England, and familiarizing ourselves with its entertainment, added to our appreciation for the movie.  It was a pleasure to join in laughter with the locals, instead of numbering among the few in an American cinema who caught the story’s nuances.

I had my doubts about “Salmon Fishing in Yemen.”  Reviews back home had been distinctly luke-warm (Not a Star Wars pun…well, maybe just a little one).  Yet the unassuming movie sucked me in more than many of the budget-busting productions Hollywood rolls out each summer.  The main characters pursued not merely a quest, but a fantastic dream, and most saw their goals as impossible.  Despite its title, much of the story takes place in England.  The poster had crowned the movie as the best British comedy of the year.  While I cannot comment on such a claim, I can say that we found it immensely satisfying.

Oh, and by the way, a small but important part of the movie takes place in the Scottish Highlands.  James Herriot would have been thrilled.

Enjoying our movie,
Dragon Dave

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