Great Traditions of Madrid: Beating the Boredom with Good Cinema

So, I stayed at home and watched Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity, a classic of the cine noir genre, starring Fred MacMurray, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck.  Talk of a great flick.  Spainwas always good when it came to spending an hour or two enjoying some of the best of the 7th art.  That’s right.  I’ve always said.  In my country they have made tons of great movies, but I had to come toEurope to learn about them.  Except for maybe Hitchcock, Coppola or Spielberg, I knew jackstraw about filmmaking.  It wasn’t really my fault.  TV listings in the papers used to (and probably still do) give you the title and then names of the actors starring in the films.  Little details like the mastermind in the director’s chair seemed of no importance.  Like so many things that happened to me while I was growing up, I didn’t realize my ignorance until I moved somewhere else and lived a little.  That’s the greatest danger about ignorance. 

            Back in the late 80s,Spainhad only two channels, drably called Channel 1 and Channel 2.  The offer was, needless to say, limited, but boy could the pick their flicks.  The often had cycles featuring this actor or that director.  In a matter of six months I had learned more than I ever had known in my life.  Just imagine my host family brother saying: There’s a great John Ford western on. 

            A western?  Barf.

            It’s his best, The Searchers

            Never heard of it. 

            You never what…?

            This is turning into a tragic poem

            But that was the kind of thing that happened to me all the time.  The Spanish had a logical way at looking at cinema.  If you want to know about the quality of a film, first check who directed it.  In America, it’s who played in it.  That’s why back home people remember Some like it Hot for Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, and sort of leave out the part about Billy Wilder.  Can you believe I had never heard of him before I came here, and I thought I was kind of in on movies?  Nor did the names Hawkes, Lubitsch, Mankiewicz sound familiar.  Not even Cukor!  Not even George Cukor for the love of God!  During the late 1990s and much of the first decade, old films faded out as crappy Spanish TV took over.  But now with digital TV, they are back and my bored summer days (or nights rather) are over with.  Is there any better way to combat the sweltering weather than watch MacMurray (who for years, by the way, I only really knew about from that cheesy series My Three Sons) weep in Robinson’s arms before they send him to the gas chamber?  Colossal!

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