Tuesday, January 16, 2007

da Veni, da Vidi, da Vinci Code

There's something decidedly dark & squirrelly about my character that compels me to seek out that which I despise - just so that I can despise it a little bit more.

Case in point: Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

A few years ago, while I and every other skinflint I knew were anxiously awaiting its paperback release (which would still be long in coming to
Canada), a colleague of mine returned from a trip to India (of all places) with the coveted book in hand. This novel, this Holy Grail of books, which had set the church on its ear, was finally in my grasp. I was delighted.

Of course it stunk; I knew it would. But that didn’t prevent me from devouring it in a few hours. I scoffed at it, belittled its puzzles and codes, marvelled at the idiotic simplicity of its plot, sneered at its many palpable geographical mistakes, shook my head at the author’s “understanding” of Parisian street grids – even going so far as to wake Mr. Cat in Rabat up from a deep sleep to share my spiteful glee at the book’s mounting faux pas and puerile “conundrums”. “It’s Da Vinci’s goddamn mirror writing!” I shrieked. Literally. “And he’s going to sustain this bit of so-called arcana for another freaking chapter!” It was at that point that I threw the book across the room and turned out the light.

In truth, the seed of my anger was that I had not come up with the book’s concept myself (for none of the material was novel or unknown), not written the frigging book, not sold the movie rights, and not purchased an island in the Aegean. My curse in life (to quote Bugs Bunny) is to be “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”.

So when I heard that the film rights had been sold, my Cat pre-Rabat friends & I conferred deep into the night and shared notes over long liquid lunches about the casting. We all had our theories: some excellent (mine); some reasonable (theirs). In a world where truth is always more grotesque than fiction, I hear that Tom Hanks has been cast in the lead role. I am beside myself with merriment: how better to bury a mediocre book than with a mediocre actor (sorry, I’m not a Tom Spanks fan). The only fly in the ointment will be its release date: I will be in Morocco.

Tantalizing clips and stills are leaked, and then finally the trailer. I howl at the sight of Mr. Spanks’ transformation into “symbologist” (I still giggle at this) Robert Langdon festooned with a coiffure worthy of King Arthur’s Court; in fact, he looks more like a knight’s page grown long in the tooth. Oh, it is to laugh (to quote Daffy Duck). I eagerly await the appearance of the DVD in Rabat’s pirate shops. It is late in coming. I am concerned. Then, like the Holy Grail, it makes a fleeting but luminous appearance at Rabat's largest "independent" film distributor. I snatch it off the shelf and scurry home, not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment.

I slip it into my DVD player and sit back. I watch as the Louvre is revealed in the quickening shadows of a Parisian night, I hear footsteps ring out along its tiled galleries, I sit up in my seat as a nefarious voice penetrates the night, “Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!

Damn! Damn! Damn! It’s a French copy, not the original English-language version. But I can be patient. I can wait.

A month later, I espy another copy in a different pirate shop. I snatch it off the shelf and scurry home, not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment.

I slip it into my DVD player and sit back. I watch as the Louvre is revealed in the quickening shadows of a Parisian night, I hear footsteps ring out along its tiled galleries, I sit up in my seat as a nefarious voice penetrates the night, “Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!”

Damn! Damn! Damn! It’s a French copy, not the original English-language version. But I can be patient. I can wait. But can I? Under unrelenting Spanish pressure, Morocco has finally clamped down on its Mediterranean-Seafaring pirates. The shops which once offered Rabat the culture of the world for 10 dirhams a pop are now chained shut, leaving movie hounds no legal alternative to satisfy their appetites. (How I love a well thought out plan.) Rumours fly. It’s temporary. It’s permanent. It sucks.

A week or two goes by, and still the massive padlocks hang ponderously on the shop doors – but wait! Enterprising merchants begin selling movies from blankets thrown along the pathways of the medina. Every once in a while a warning call resonates down the alleys and the contraband and its dealers disappear in the wink of an eye. The police are coming. I am loath to buy from these sellers; at least at the pirate shops, the merchants will exchange any non-English movie for another film. As I argue with myself the niceties of possibly wasting the equivalent of a Euro, I espy The Da Vinci Code. I snatch it off the blanket and scurry home, not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment.

I slip it into my DVD player and sit back. I watch as the Louvre is revealed in the quickening shadows of a Parisian night, I hear footsteps ring out along its tiled galleries, I sit up in my seat as a nefarious voice penetrates the night, “Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!

I capitulate. I have had enough. This is a sign from a greater being. Possibly Dan Brown himself.

Months pass, and my dear friend Mr. N (62% evil) and I are sitting in an Agdal café when we are approached by the new breed of DVD pirate: the itinerant buccaneer. He spreads his movies like a fan onto our small table; Mr. N and I look at each other. Is it worth it? We know that we’ll get burned. But we have been visibly weakened by months of no English movies; it has been a cultural drought of unspeakable horrors for the English community. Then I espy The Da Vinci Code. Perhaps three times is the charm. Between us we buy 10 films. Mr. N. has seen our pirate around Agdal; the latter promises to refund us if they are not in English.

I scurry home, not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment.

I slip it into my DVD player and sit back. I watch as the Louvre is revealed in the quickening shadows of a Parisian night, I hear footsteps ring out along its tiled galleries, I sit up in my seat as a nefarious voice penetrates the night, “Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!”

Of the ten movies, only one is in English. It is Babel. It is a copy made with a Sony Handycam that had been mounted in front of a television (at least it wasn’t hand-held) screening a promotional copy of the film. The sound quality is abysmal, rising and falling at capricious and malevolent will. We watch it in its entirety, one hand on the volume control.

Mr. N. never sees the Agdal pirate again.

Weeks pass. The other day Mr. CinR & I are told that the new Chinese gift shop in town (more on that later) is selling DVDs and that some of the movies are in English. Huzzah! Like a drink of water to the parched lips of a thirsty man, we relent and go. Mr. CinR is the first to see The Da Vinci Code.

He snatches it off the table and we scurry home, not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment.

I slip it into my DVD player and sit back. I watch as the Louvre is revealed in the quickening shadows of a Parisian night, I hear footsteps ring out along its tiled galleries, I sit up in my seat as a nefarious voice penetrates the night, “Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!”

Fuck.

I capitulate. I have had enough. This is a sign from a greater being. Possibly Tom Spanks himself.

I feel like I am at the centre of some unearthly enchantment from which I can never break free. Moments later, Mr. C in R turns from his computer and announces that he’s downloading the film from the internet. O brave new world – is this “sharing” of files just as unethical as pirating?
I don’t care. Tonight we will watch The Da Vinci Code. We are not only fully prepared to hate it, but rapturously anticipate every cornball moment. I don’t think it will disappoint.

14 Comments:

Blogger knarf said...

Don't tell me:

“Arrêtez! Dites-moi où elle est!”

1:14 p.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

BTW - at least Audrey's in it...

1:15 p.m.  
Anonymous Ibn Kafka said...

I understand the feeling - while not anglophone, I prefer my movies to be in the orginal version. I was a bit trifled at having to endure Scorcese's altest in French. If you go by Casa, you might have some wider choice at Derb Ghallef (but quality was never their forte, even when Bab el Hadd was still functioning DVD-wise).

Besides, it wasn't under Spanish pressure that the razzia was undertaken, but under - what else? - US pressure. Apparently, this wasn't only in Morocco, as a couple of other MENA countries have had to pretend to clamp down on pirate DVD copies. So there you are, US pressures have made you feel the full pressure of the "exception culturelle"...

3:57 p.m.  
Blogger squindia said...

bah! no more movies?! Oh my gosh!!

The only movie I have seen in the theater here is 'Da Vinci Code'. I never read the book. But I predict it will be everything you want it to be. It sucked hard.

squid

8:07 p.m.  
Anonymous Cath said...

Having guffawed my way through the book, I've never had any inclination to see the film. You'll have to tell me how it was.
Didn't we read Holy Blood, Holy Grail when it came out in the 1970s??

9:16 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Cathy: I loved Holy Blood Holy Grail. Thanks to Dad, he made it a family favourite next to Dickens.

Ibn Kafka: I stand corrected. The rumour here was that it was the Spanish government. Who knows? I trust your sources above mine any day of the week.

10:52 p.m.  
Blogger Samir said...

You will hate it, or else you are not the real Cat in Rabat.

ps. Your word verification just asked me to type a very rude word.

12:32 a.m.  
Blogger taamarbuuta said...

I'm still looking for an English copy of that. I was so sad when Rabatbuster closed down - the school I teach at obtained more than 600 movies (and tv series) from there before the closure, though, thank God.

Still looking for "Munich" in English too.

1:39 a.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Taamarbuuta: I had Munich but lent it to a colleague. I might be able to find a copy ... are you in Meknes?

9:15 a.m.  
Blogger knarf said...

Cat in Rabat:

WRT Holy Blood Holy Grail, should we tell them about Dad's "theory" about our family bloodline?

1:23 p.m.  
Blogger woman wandering said...

Bloody hilarious ... or bluidy hilarious if you take the kiwi accent into account.

I almost died laughing which is never a good look when alone in an apartment with walls through which loud laughter can be heard.

At some point I thought, 'If I had money I would go out now and buy the movie for Cat'.

Glad the internet became an option ... seems like Mr C is a keeper.

2:27 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

Knarf: I don't know if we should flaunt our lineage.

3:13 p.m.  
Anonymous ByronBring said...

You actually got all the way through the book??? My hero!! I got no further than page 5.

8:13 p.m.  
Blogger Cat in Rabat ( كات في الرباط) said...

NO book gets the better of me!

7:24 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home



Search Engine Optimization and Free Submission