Monday, November 01, 2004

1 November 2004

So on Friday I went to see The Bourne Supremacy, and I realized that the whole movie experience in Switzerland is unlike any that I’ve had anywhere else, and it therefore deserves attention. First of all, movie listings are standardized and listed all together on one big poster, regardless of location or type. You can find these posters at tram stations or bulletin boards, and they are all-inclusive. Whether you want to see Garfield, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, or Hot and Horny Housewives III, they will all be listed on this movie poster. Once you’ve picked a movie, location, date, and time, you need to book your tickets in advance. Seats are by reservation only, so the earlier you reserve, the better your seat will be. Tickets cost about $11. So you get to the theater and find your seat. Even if the theater isn’t full, you’d better sit in your own seat, because if you accidentally sit in someone else’s seat, they might come up to you, show you their ticket, and ask you to get out of their seat, regardless of the fact that an almost identical seat is sitting empty right next to you. So you sit down and start watching the movie ads, which are mostly for the two main grocery stores, the two main cell phone companies, the tram system, and ice cream. I understand that the ice cream makers want to push their product on moviegoers, but really, where is the logic in advertising for the tram or the grocery store or cell phones in the movie theater? People will buy groceries and take the tram, regardless, and everyone already has a cell phone, which can’t be used in the theater, anyways. It seems like a waste of advertising money. So then the movie starts, and you’re getting into it, even reading some of the German and French subtitles, especially when the English is cutting in and out for that “inaudible dream sequence” effect. All of a sudden, in the middle of a scene, the picture blinks out and the lights go on. Power failure? Equipment malfunction? Intermission. 90 minutes in, they stop the movie so that you can go to the restroom, smoke a cigarette, or buy some ice cream (and if you’re fast, maybe a tram ticket and a cell phone). I sort of wonder if they do the same thing in the porn houses, halfway through the movie. I don’t think that their audiences would appreciate sudden, unannounced houselights being turned on, so I’m inclined to think not, but you never know, this is Switzerland.

Saturday, my theory on fall being “strange parade season” was further strengthened when all of a sudden, about 80 or 90 people started marching through my neighborhood, playing fifes and drums. For an hour and a half. My first thought was, “The redcoats are coming! The redcoats are coming!” And then after a while, it was more, “When are they leaving? When are they leaving?”

And yesterday, of course, was Halloween, which has only just started infiltrating Swiss culture. I went to a little get-together of expats, and while we were there, the doorbell rang. Six Swiss kids were standing at the door, two dressed as devils, two as ghosts, and two as some sort of bloody-faced characters, and they awkwardly squawked something like, “Trickletree!” We gave them some of the candy that we were eating at the party, which I never would have been allowed to take as a child, since they were unwrapped, and each kid took one gumdrop, until they were encouraged to take more. They then stood there dumbfounded and overwhelmed as these strange foreigners in even stranger costumes asked them questions about their Halloween costumes. They finally made their escape, and will probably never go trick-or-treating again. Upon leaving the party, I witnessed the Swiss version of eggs thrown on the windows, toilet paper strewn on the lawn, and baseball bats taken against jack o’lanterns and mailboxes. On one section of one guardrail was a neat line of shaving cream.

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