Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Sissi and Gigi and Roy and Me.
When I was 12, amongst many cinemas in Cork, Ireland, where I grew up, there was the small Lee Cinema. The Lee showed mainly foreign films. With subtitles. But often there were peculiar little festivals like the Roy Rogers Festival where for a whole week they showed Roger and Dale beaming from atop their horses, all large cowboy smiles with gorgeous American orthodontistry on display, said smiles sporadically removed by the wicked Indians attacking them. But always victoriously restored when Indians were quickly dispatched. I loved Roy. Resented Dale. Why wasn’t I born over there and maybe I could capture Roy’s heart? And then maybe he’d let me borrow Trigger occasionally?
But above all, I loved the foreign films. I loved the sound of Italian, French, German and Spanish that poured from the screen (so much so that I took 5 languages in high school). The sheer exotica of the films themselves were much sliced and diced by the censors if not outright banned from our pristine emerald shores. Every film shown was suitable for all ages - a 12 year old could watch alongside a 95 year old as no minds, no matter what the age, could be polluted with sex. Violence -yes, of course - but never the naughty bits and their nefarious displays and placements. Sex hurts more than guns was the message.
I never knew what Gigi was all about until I saw it uncensored over here in Canada. Many movie plots made no sense whatsover, being heavily scissored and chopped to maintain the remarkable purity and childlike innocence of the natives.
What remained was the angst, the locations, the costumes, the drama, the music, the foreign languages tripping so unerringly off the pouty lips of alluring, exotic actresses. Pouty lips were banned in Ireland in those days.
The very best of foreign films, in my child-view, were the “Sissi” series, made in Austria in German.
I just couldn’t get enough of them. They introduced the exquisite Romy Schneider to the world and the story of the real Sissi was heavily romanticized. But there could not be enough of that for a 12 year old! I lapped them up, time and again.
And I also read the many biographies written about her, an independent woman, born long before her time and brutally and randomly assassinated at the age of 60 in 1894.
Over the years I’ve tried to get copies of these films in the original format and thought I had succeeded a few times, only to return them. One series was dubbed into awful English. Another was dubbed into French with English subtitles. I returned that. I wanted the original German with the English subtitles. I never gave up. My tenacity has finally paid off. On its way to me now, as I write, is the original series, in German, with English subtitles.
I can hardly wait. But part of me knows I can never go home again, I can never recapture the feelings of a 12 year old watching those films. So maybe I should just leave these past experiences alone?
Do you have any tales about attempting to recapture a memory from childhood?