No Escape: Going to the Flicks, Israeli-style

No less than the virtually de rigeur pushing into queues here, the saving of spaces in them with unmanned shopping trolleys (see also Parking Shields), and the continual, blatant invasions of personal space – most infuriatingly, the crowding and looking-over-shoulders at ATMs – the lack of decorum in Israel’s cinemas is a phenomenon that no ex-pat Englishman can ever get used to.     

No, going to the movies in this country is not, as in others, an “escape” . . . merely a reminder.                           

Talking loudly during films is seemingly compulsory here. So, whenever I have the opportunity of selecting my seat once inside the auditorium, my decision is based not on its position in relation to the screen, but its proximity to clusters of Israeli women already seated . . . and talking.                           

In fact, tell an Israeli about the release of the first “talkie” – The Jazz Singer, in 1927 – and he will probably enquire as to why talking was not allowed in cinemas before that.                           

Last Saturday, for the last leg of an unusually agreeable first date, I took the lucky girl – who cannot have failed to have been impressed by my sophistication – to see Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque (local women being the fickle, unpredictable creatures that they are, however, I would not recommend the purchase of any new hats just yet . . . though Fanny on a first date might, perhaps, be a good sign).                

Despite my success in ignoring the proclivity of the projectionist to, without warning, cut from the middle of one scene to some unrelated point in the next – a long-favoured pastime amongst Israeli projectionists – I could do little about the loud belching from the left side of the auditorium which peppered the three-hour epic.           

And my date, who had seemed a rather demure soul until that point, earned numerous brownie points for her savage verbal assault on the bloke in the row behind us who had forgotten to turn off his mobile phone.              

A quiet Israeli cinema (Lev Smadar, Jerusalem)

Whilst I am not generally prone to acts of violence, the possibility that I might, one day, twat someone in the cinema here cannot be altogether ruled out.                         

It is not just the incessant loud chatter that so infuriates, but the seeming deep-seated need of Israeli cinemagoers to commentate on what they are seeing. During Saturday’s film, on every occasion that the striking Emilie Ekdahl character appeared on screen, an elderly woman seated behind us seemed to consider it incumbent upon her to exclaim “Eizeh einayim!” (“What eyes!”)        

And, as if they don’t see enough Jews here, the entry of any Jewish character (Isak Jacobi on Saturday) or theme, however remote, into a film is always the cue for an excited buzz amongst Israeli audiences. Indeed, the always animated reaction to a movie’s protagonists and plot often renders the Israeli cinematic experience more akin to pantomime.                                 

Audience reactions here are also markedly unpredictable. I have sat through terribly sad films that have provoked mirth, and hilarious ones which have passed without so much as a titter. This owes rather less to the language gap (in the case of foreign films) than to the unusual – or, to be less kind, f*cked-up – Israeli psyche.                                 

I must also give mention to the old boy, a Cinematheque regular, who would appear to have somewhat misconstrued the concept of home cinema, barking out his temperature comfort requirements to the usher – and to the entire cinema – in mid-movie. I don’t know why they don’t just give him the air conditioner remote and have done with!                            

And the extremes of Israeli behaviour do not end in the cinema auditorium. At the foyer reception to mark the opening of last year’s British Film Festival (also at the Cinematheque), in the presence of the British Ambassador to Israel, I cringed in horror as the refreshments were gobbled up – and even stuffed into pockets – in a display that would not even be witnessed at a Hendon Adass kiddush (synagogue reception).                                 

The Israeli cinematic experience is a microcosm of life here. From the discomfort of your seat, you can view – and in 3D – all the chutzpah, bad manners and neuroses that Israelis have to offer. And, for a mere 35 shekels, it represents extraordinarily good value!


16 responses to “No Escape: Going to the Flicks, Israeli-style

  1. Shimon Soester

    Admit it, it wasn’t Ingmar Bergman at the Cinematheque – you went to see “Fame” in Bat Yam

  2. You should have been here some 40 years ago, when no respectable cinema would run a movie without the presence of a few louts who were expert in the field of rolling bottles down the aisles.

    If my memory serves me well, they favoured coke bottles because they were ribbed, thus producing a better sound.

    I have a Sharp projector which throws a 2.40×1.80cm picture on a wall/screen, and is as good as any cinema taking into account driving, parking, price of tickets, and all the other niceties you have pointed out.

  3. At least garinim and cigarettes seem to be a thing of the past……..

  4. No, Shimon. Even if it is not apparent from melchett mike, I do have some appreciation for the arts . . . in spite of the best efforts of your old man! 😉

    Adrian, does the Reisserama do popcorn too? Thank you for your kind offer, though – due to rumours that you have forbidden the (pivotal to me) “back row” – I don’t think I am going to be bringing any first dates round to your place!

  5. what i want to know is …what about the bird????

  6. What exactly would you like to know, Shuli?

    It is interesting how so many married men live off snippets of their single friends’ sex lives . . . but that they never reciprocate.

    What about your missus, Shuli?!

  7. Good question; why do married people never discuss their love-lives?

    When I did reserves there was a guy called H from Bat-Yam who would graphically describe where and how Mrs. H did it. It was a gruesome experience and we all dreaded the day when we’d have to meet the Mrs. H, apparently we were already more familiar with certain parts of her anatomy than the good lady’s physician. Thankfully, the day never came.

    For some reason there is nothing fascinating or arousing about the idea of post-martial relations. Can anyone remember a love scene in a movie between two partners joined in wedlock. On the contrary there must be something positively titillating about watching complete strangers go at it, as in movies the average pre-intercourse acquaintance time in most films seems to be less time than the historic 70 seconds that it took Kahn to take out Salita.

    For all these reason and others, I beg Shuli not to reciprocate and to share with us no information appertaining to his and Mrs. Shuli’s intimate moments. Let him to reserve his obvious literary skills for descriptions of the subjects that he excels at the most – whatever they may be.

    Regarding movies, I agree with Adrian, we too possess a projector and on the rare occasions we have projected in the living room. Invariably, I’m out quicker than Salita.

  8. You haven’t seen Mrs. Shuli!! If only I could cut the image of Shuli out of the picture . . . 😉

    Do any couples married for more than a few years (to be on the generous side) have exciting, or at least interesting, sex lives?

    (Anonymous replies welcome too.)

  9. Mike….i always knew you appreciated a “looker” when you saw one !!

    Please do remember my wife came to the British Isles looking for me !!

  10. And her guide dog obviously knew how to sniff out a knob!

    Daniel, you have you gone uncharacteristically silent on my marital sex question. You are amongst friends here . . .

  11. Mike, the well-named Reisserama doesn’t have to do corn – pop- or any other kind … I get all the “corn” I need on this blog ….

    And speaking of Reiss, today I was (trying) to do some family research; you went to Poland for this, I’m more the arm-chair researcher. I Googled +reiss +london – and got 886,000 hits, mostly concerning the clothing industry (I didn’t check ’em all). We’re gonna have to have a serious talk with a certain cousin in London …

  12. “Daniel, you have you gone uncharacteristically silent on my marital sex question. . . .”

    I thought I had expressed my opinion quite clearly at 1:24pm, little has changed since.

    However, I am reminded of the married man who when asked whether he usually talks to his wife while making love answers, “Only if she phones.”

    I’m also reminded of the apparently true story of the married man who while recovering from a heart attack was told by a doctor that having sex was okay, then thinking again the doctor cautioned:

    “But only with your wife. I don’t want you getting to excited.”

    In short, I’d change the subject. Some stones are best left unturned

  13. Permit me just the one intrusion, Daniel . . .

    Your esposa being of Argentinian origin, does she possess a “hand of God”?

    If so, I trust that – unlike her infamous countryman – she doesn’t use it to cheat.

  14. Sorry, I don’t understand what you’re alluding to, as I’ve stated I know nothing about football.

    However, David Simmers did tell me about a man who returns home to his wife with a pig under his arm. “This,” he declared is the pig I’ve been sleeping with.”

    “I’m shocked!” exclaims his wife.

    “Shut up.” he replies, “I wasn’t talking to you.”

  15. So, no questions either about your proficiency in and around the “box”?

  16. philip lehrer

    Disregarding the obviously salacious last few “inputs” (pardon the pun) starting from Shuli, I`d like to add to Mike`s observations. Last week, we were at Massada for a performance of “La Traviata”, at which I marveled, only because of the UNBELIEVABLE breath control of the main protagonist, even up to her last, bellowed, “Joia” , at the moment of her expiring, considering the fact that this was caused by what in that time was known as “Consumption” or to the ignorant, “Tuberculosis”.Our companions, brand “Chadashim Olim” or the contrary, were absolutely outraged by the background noise from the crowd of about 4000 during the show (performance) SHE said, with some justification to people surrounding us, what a shame it was to get a running commentary about the shenanigans on the stage, at the same time that the “show” was going on. The locals, seemed very surprised and somewhat peeved at these “foreigners”, who were just relics of the “Mandate” anyway and who had no right to preach to the “un” convertible. I`ve been here for more than 3 years now and having converted from being a Zionist, to an anti-semite and from Dr Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, WHENEVER, I leave home and take to the roads with my tank (sorry, i mean my Mazda 3), have come to these 2 conclusions: 1.) Make war not love and 2.) If you can`t beat`em, join `em.
    This is advice i give to all new “Olim”. When they do follow it, a redoubtable new adversary is created for the locals, another front if one wishes: The “Home” front

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