David Arioch – Jornalismo Cultural

Jornalismo Cultural

Children of the White Gold Cinema

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I saw the tears streaming down his face, wetting his plaid shirt buttoned up at the point of his neck

The White Gold Cinema, one of the great entertainment points of the population of Paranavaí (Archive: Osvaldo Del Grossi)

I am not part of a generation that has the strongest and clearest memories of the White Gold Cinema, one of the great entertainment points of the population of Paranavaí, in the Northwest of Paraná, until 1993. When the cinema was closed, I was still a child. Despite this, I went to the Gold Cinema for a few years of my childhood, and I have fond memories of that time.

My first time at the movies was a session of “The Bumbling Heroes – An Adventure in the Jungle”, on a weekend in 1988. By then, the biggest screen I had seen was the 21-inch TV, covered by a box of varnished wood, which was in the living room. Even so, I was happy watching cartoons on it.

As soon as my brother, my mother and I arrived in front of the White Gold Cinema, in Manoel Ribas Street, in the downtown, I paid attention to the people lined around the box office. Tiny, I watched everything in the proportionality of my stature. I saw more shoes, legs and belts than faces. Except, of course, when people were as little as I was.

Before we got inside the cinema, I walked slowly and backwards along the sidewalk, trying to observe the height of the White Gold’s building, but it was impossible for me. So, I thought that was the biggest movie theater in the world. Who knows, maybe it crossed the skies and had direct contact with the paradise they talked about in school.

The gentle popcorn seller smiled at me, noticing through my large, cylindrical black eyes that it was my movie debut. “Is it your fist time?” You’ll like it and you’ll want to come back many times”, he said, straightening a small amount of sweet pop corn, preventing it from mixing with the salty one.

Warm and smelling, the popcorn popped into the cart. For a moment, I believed, in my boyish illusion, that maybe the popcorn had a life, and wants to go to the movies to watch “The Bumbling Heroes”. By my side, prevailed a sweet aroma that pacified the most bewildering children – yes, it was an effective white-hot soothing odor.

It reminded me of the airy red tabebuia tree, that I saw every day near my house, when I pointed with my finger and shouted: “Look that sweet popcorn tree!” On the other side of the popcorn cart, the smell of popcorn changed, as well as the public. The adults, especially the men, approached and asked: “Give me the salty one, please!”

Skilled, the popcorn seller knew the exact amount of popcorn to fill every bag. I watched his grooved hands glittering in front of the small yellow lamp that glowed and gilded his wrinkled face. It was that way, whenever he leaned in or steeled himself. That was his spectacle, and at the entrance of the White Gold Cinema, nobody was more important than the popcorn seller.

On that day, before we went to the cinema, five shoeshine boys, aged between 6 and 14, approached. They leaned against a wall next to the White Gold Cinema and, as the ragamuffins boys from Buñuel’s “The Young and the Damned”, started smoking, watching families getting out of cars and crossing the sidewalk.

“If I had a father or a mother I would not be in this life, brother! Being poor and alone is not easy. No, sir! Look how much luxury those kids have”, said one of the four boys to his friends. Without a word, they just shook their heads in agreement, crushing little butts with their little feet.

Dirty, with grimy nails and the nauseating smell of cheap cigarettes, a shoeshine boy no more than 12 years old lead a group of kids. As someone hesitant about entering or leaving, he folded his arms and raised his face as one of the entrance lights highlighted his dubious expression of satisfaction

“Guys, listen up! Quickly! This movie ‘Bumbling Heroes’ is very good. There’s only one bad thing. Mussum and Zechariah die at the end. Thanks! Bye! “He shouted and ran laughing, while his dark and curly hair was fluttering. At that moment, he became an antagonist worthy of the villain Scar.

The boy dragged his shabby slippers and, with his companions, went down to Pará Street. Some children did not care about the revelation, but others were so angry that they wanted their parents to call the police or do something about it. For good, no one pursued them.

Inside the Gold White, I was stunned by the out of sight seats. “There are one thousand five hundred seats here. Look up there, it’s like an opera”, my mother told us, watching our reactions. Unhurried, we spun around the mastodontic room, trying to see all the details.

Luckily, there were vacant seats in the front row. Then, we walked there, crossing hallways and listening to the sounds of spectators eating popcorn, talking, making fun of someone and hugging each other. Near us, the usher accompanied everything with its indefectible aura of firefly. He felt like the leader of a coliseum where nothing would happen without his permission, especially when the lights went out.

As soon as I sat down, I observed a boy in mended clothes sitting next to me, accompanied by his mother. His name was Juscelino, and he was a year or two older than me. It was also his first time at the movies. I noticed his anxiety because his small feet kept swinging, as did mine.

His trembling hands sweated so much that every time he wiped them on the sides of his plaid pants. Juscelino was talking to me, keeping his face toward the disproportionate projection screen. I thought he was excited because of the movie, until I noticed something different in his eyes, a crystal clarity like I’ve never seen before. Naturally, the mother revealed that her son was born blind.

Juscelino could not see anything. Still, his excitement at White Gold Cinema surpassed even mine. The sounds and smells that came to him were like immaterial gifts, memorials. With a rare auditory and olfactory acuity, Juscelino could even see what people were doing or eating in the furthest seats- and he liked to discuss everything with me.

Son of peasants from Alto Paraná, he arrived in Paranavaí by bus in the morning, and stayed waiting for hours for the ticket office to open. His father could not participate in the big event, because the savings just barely covered the expenses of his wife and child. “It’s going to start, mom!” Said the little boy seconds before the projector started showing the movie, as if he had a gift for omens.

From beginning to end, Juscelino was completely silent, trying to absorb as much sound information as possible. Occasionally, he moved about the chair without making a sound, worried about bothering people. Juscelino, my brother and I were united by an experience that would never be repeated. Our greatest discoveries were visual, and those of Juscelino were auditory. Perhaps even richer than ours, as he put himself in the position of creator by putting forth to the creativity of everything he heard.

Still in the dark, I saw the tears streaming down his face, wetting his plaid shirt buttoned up at the point of his neck. At the end, with the return of the lights, I asked him what it was like to watch a movie at the cinema without being able to see. My mother scolded me, but Juscelino’s mother did not mind the question.

“I can not explain it right, but I see, yes, I just do not see with my eyes. I see everything I carry inside me”, he justified before taking hold of his mother’s hand and walking in short steps toward the exit. The artificial lighting contrasted and harmonized with the compliant light of the newly arrived portentous moon.

On the corner, at the intersection between Pará and Manoel Ribas Street, the five shoeshine boys, children living as adults, drummed their boxes. They were seated on the curb, immersed in false smiles and sullen stares, trying to exist for a world that scarcely recognized their true intentions.

Returning home on foot, we crossed the street. As we passed them, the same boy, who caused the commotion at the entrance to the cinema, pulled me by the arm and, with an implied look, asked “Hey, my friend. Can you tell us the story of the movie you saw there at the cinema?”

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Written by David Arioch

March 30th, 2017 at 1:28 am

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