This was one of those opportunities that when I heard about it made me go, ‘I have to do that’. In the summer Montjuïc Castle in Barcelona hosts an open-air cinema, with movies projected onto a huge screen set up against the castle walls. Vast crowds flock to watch movies at the castle, picnic and have a few beers. The castle itself is lovely, which was one very compelling reason to go.
I also love Buster Keaton films and the one playing last night was Sherlock Jr, a classic to end all classics. My cousin Emily and her pal Rachael were very game and said they’d like to go too when I asked (thanks guys!) so off we trooped. Montjuïc Castle is at the top of a very high, very steep hill with amazing views of Barcelona.
This does mean, however, that it’s a bit of a bugger to climb so we did the sensible thing and engaged a four-wheeled equipage to do the hard work for us. When we arrived the crowd was already a couple of thousand strong and growing so we grabbed a likely looking spot and spread out with our picnic supplies (note: one litre of Carrefour own-brand champagne-esque cider at 79 cents a bottle is very drinkable). The screen was set up in front of the castle’s ivy-clad wall and a jazz band was tootling away on the stage in front of it.
The film was due to begin at 10pm but I hadn’t allowed for the fact that this was Catalan timing, so this actually translated as ‘Trailers and assorted other stuff will begin at 10:20pm, the film will not start for aaaaaaaages.’ It was fun though! The ‘assorted other stuff’ ended up being the pianist who was accompanying the film (as Buster Keaton movies are of course silent) playing some of his Joplin-esque compositions and two incredibly talented tap-dancers doing a kind of tap-duel to a djembe accompaniment. So far, so average-night-out-at-the-cinema.
We were starting to wonder, great as they were, what the tap dancers were doing there, but all became clear when the film started, the piano began to play an accompaniment and the tap-dancers started to… well, dance along to it.
The tap-dancers and pianist provided a perfectly synchronised accompaniment to Sherlock Jr, which added an extra element of fun to watching this wonderful film. If you have never seen Sherlock Jr, do so please. In brief, Keaton plays a cinema projectionist who falls asleep and has a dream that he is a great detective helping his fiancée out of a scrape with his rival. It’s hilarious and a masterpiece of slapstick – the billiards scene and the motorbike chase in particular are incredible – and the crowd at the castle loved it. Peels of laughter rang out and there was a lovely party atmosphere to the proceedings.
We headed home after the movie had finished with a definite sense that we had seen something unique and special. My feeling is that everyone should see a Buster Keaton film, if possible projected on a castle with tap-dancers and a pianist. Accept no substitutes!