Monday, 2 March 2009

Cinema Paradiso

It is often funny for me to recall on the memories I carry with me from childhood.
One of those funny ones is to do with a presentation of the film Kazablan we’ve had at my primary school’s smaller (of its two) gathering halls, probably at around the time I was in fifth grade.
Now, Kazablan is an Israeli musical film from 1974, belonging firmly into the genre that is referred to in Israel as the “burekas film”: films with as much substance as puff pastry that are made to appeal to the masses through their lightness. The premises are simple: an alpha type dude who thinks he is a man of honor but is actually a petty criminal falls for the girl he is not expected to fall for and then gets implicated in a crime he didn’t commit. Seriously, a very original film indeed...
The thing about that school presentation is that you had to put it in the context of time. Back then, if you didn’t manage to catch a film during its cinematic release, you would have had to wait many years until it was broadcast on TV if you were to ever have the hope of seeing it. VCRs were invented a while later.
With much gusto we were all gathered at the hall to watch this incredibly educational film. Say what you say, it was much better than normal class!
But then disaster struck. Sort of: the copy of the film the school had received was English dubbed. We were going to watch an Israeli Hebrew speaking film in a version that was dubbed to English (and rendered speech totally out of synch with actors’ lips) and Hebrew subtitles! Ori, our school principle, didn’t like it in the least; even Avram, the janitor and our projectionist for the day, looked annoyed and was twitching his mustache. Yet Avram always looked annoyed, and Ori has had enough pragmatism in him to know the show must go on. So on it went.
The scene I still remember from the movie itself is the rendition of the song Kavod (honor): For a reason that is probably to do with the way the English lyrics have had to impose on the Hebrew speaking lips, that song was actually sung under the title of Respect.
You can marvel at the song in its original Hebrew version through the clip below; if you don’t understand what they’re saying, read the Hebrew subtitles:

Which Brings me to the reason why I’m telling you all of the above.
You see, I often sing to Dylan while I bath him. It sort of comes naturally, and Dylan is yet to complain about my voice being my voice. Very often, Dylan does certain things in the bath that demonstrate the acquisition of a new skill, so I praise him with words of honor (and when you praise someone in Hebrew, you usually use the word “honor” quite explicitly).
And so it was that on one of the occasions where I was to praise Dylan I started singing him the Kazablan song. I was probably too bored with the usual clapping or the giving of five, but the result was that Dylan really liked the song. Through repetitions in consecutive bathing session I noticed that he froze to attention whenever I start singing the song. Now that he’s into speaking the occasional word it’s even better: he nudges his head against mine and says “yeth yeth” in order to get me to sing this song that ends with the Hebrew word Yesh (which translates to something like hooray, only that in Hebrew it also carries the meaning of ownership, which implies the singer has got the honor the song is talking about).
A very odd yet funny experience.

To conclude of this post I feel I should tell you the story of the school presenting Saturday Night Fever to us a year or two later.
With all the onscreen sex and nudity, I remember Ori looking quite puzzled and wondering not that silently as to whether this is the right film to show a bunch of kids around the age of 11. Yet in typical Ori fashion we soldiered on, and I think I can safely report none of us has become a serial killer yet. I doubt today’s Inquisition of Political Correctness would have allowed such a thing to take place, but Ori was Ori and it’s exactly why I respect him.
I do have to note it did not seem like Avram has had any problems that time around.


dave said...

Hi Mosche, good and interesting blog to read... Do you have an email for us to chat? Mines:


Moshe Reuveni said...

Well, while email exchanges triggered by my blogs have been known to create nice friendships, I do prefer not to jump into bed on the first date.
You are more than welcome to pass by and comment on my posts. I will have a look at your blog, too.