It’s not all lost in translation

With no Starbucks for a thousand miles and a broken Kindle rendering my chosen downloads (including Yann Martel’s Life of Pi) unreadable, there was really no way I was going to be able to survive without my bi-weekly trips to the cinema as well. The evenings here are long and five minutes of Russian television was more than enough for one visit.

Having been provided with a map at the weekend (which was kindly marked with my home, my work and — at my request — Syktyvkar’s three film houses), I set off after school on the seventh day in search of the largest of the city’s cinemas, under the assurance that “you can’t miss it”.

Naturally, my sense of direction took this as some sort of challenge, and I spent the next forty or so minutes getting progressively more lost as night fell and the temperature dropped. Eventually giving up, I turned around and set an approximate course for home, inevitably discovering the Кинотеатр “Рублик” to be only two streets from my flat, practically opposite the circus I’d been obsession over since my arrival.

It was by now too late to watch anything (at least not if I wanted to be of any use at work the following morning), and so I checked the times and resolved to return after my final class the next day. What to see, though? My choices included Астерикс и Обеликс в Британии (Asterix and Obelix in the UK), 007 Координаты Скайфолл (Skyfall) and Ральф 3D (Wreck-It Ralph 3D).

After lunch on Friday, then, I set off in anticipation of the latest release from Walt Disney Animation Studios, a film which wasn’t scheduled to arrive in British cinemas until February 15th. I had role-played the admissions transaction with the teachers from work, and so approached the box-office with marginally less fear in my eyes than usual, ready to point repeatedly at the poster if my prepared script failed me.

Having successfully chosen the film, the time and my preferred seat without too much trouble, I ordered a latte from the café across the foyer and consulted Google translate while I waited in case I had to return to the counter to ask for 3D glasses. Unable to access the Russian keyboard on my iPod, I had little choice but to enunciate at the device as the cinema staff looked on in bemusement. (As an ex-usher myself, I knew I had already fuelled their afternoon gossip.)

It was an impressive cinema; one that not only served proper coffee — with a straw in it, for some reason — but that traded in the usual Ben and Jerry’s stand for a boutique café (кофейный дворик is a chain respected across Russia), a wall-length waterfall and a small workbench with a woman applying hair extensions. Best of all, rather than just showing the performance times, the wall-mounted LCD televisions showed miniature trailers for each film on a loop next to the movie’s title.

Obviously a full review is out of the question, as at any one point I only understood approximately half of what was going on, but despite missing Jane Lynch and the entirety of the dialogue, I really rather enjoyed Wreck-It Ralph, and can’t wait to revisit it in English when it opens in Scotland next year. Even better than the feature itself — which boasted some brilliant cameos from established gaming icons and spectacular 3D animation throughout — was the short which preceded it. Not since Pixar’s Presto have I been so utterly beguiled by a short film.

But I already have a film blog, and while I will undoubtedly be returning to the Рублик in the future (today, in fact, to see The Paperboy), there is much more of interest in Syktyvkar than American movies dubbed into Russian.

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