Saturday, November 28, 2009

Life of Brian, Budapest, 1995

In 1995 I spent some time in Budapest, Hungary. I saw a bunch of films there, usually on the very cheap, in tiny or makeshift theatres that weren't traditional movie theatres. There were dozens of small theatres all over the city and you never really new what was going to happen until you found your seat. One of my favorites, Blue Box, was a square room that utilized park benches as seats. The strangest screening I had in Budapest was for Monty Python's Life of Brian.

It started as it usually did when I'd see a film in Budapest--I'd make sure it was indeed in English with Hungarian subtitles and not dubbed. It was. I was told to sit near the front of the stage for the screening as I got my ticket. "Okay," I thought, odd request but I was fine with it as I entered the little room that had a screen towards the back of the theatre stage.

Seven or eight others were already in their seats and all were sitting in the first couple of rows. My Hungarian was extremely poor (it's a very hard language to pick up) so I can only guess that the others were as befuddled as I was about the directive to sit near the front. Maybe they knew what I didn't know but I don't think so based on their immediate reaction regarding what was about to come our way.

When it was time for the film to start, we found out why we were told to sit where we were sitting. A moveable cart with TV and VCR was wheeled onto the middle of the stage directly in front of us. They were plugged into an extension cord and turned on. I couldn't believe my eyes! "Surely not," I thought as I watched the two guys in their 20s on the stage fiddle with knobs. But it was true, one pressed play, lights dimmed and the film started.

This was incredible to me. This group of strangers were going to watch Life of Brian together IN a movie theatre but ON a portable TV and VHS tape! And, you know what? We laughed like crazy and had a terrific time. I may have enjoyed it more due to the unexpected way it was screened. If I had one story to sum up my time in Budapest, it just might be the night I watched Life of Brian.

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