Friday, January 13, 2012

"Norwegian Wood" Finally in New York

"Norwegian Wood" took me out of my movie theater hibernation.

Before Paul and I saw this Japanese film last weekend, the last time I had been out to a movie was more than two years ago, when I was visiting my family in Defiance over Christmas and we sent to see "Avatar" during a Tuesday buy-one-get-one free matinee that made each seat $1.50 apiece.

Before "Avatar" -- and the only movie I'd ever seen at a theater in New York -- was "Sex and the City." That was an ill-advised expedition to the theater, and after the movie was done, I wished I had followed Paul into the latest Indiana Jones flick.

We occasionally saw movies in Columbus, but the last one we could definitively remember seeing alone together, without any friends or family, was "The Painted Veil." Five years ago.

While the skinflint side of me balked at the $13 ticket price to "Norwegian Wood," it was the sentimental side of me that finally won out.

Seeing limited-release films is one of the perks of living in New York. "Norwegian Wood" opened last weekend in the U.S. only in New York and Washington, D.C. -- and only in one theater in New York at that. Not having access to foreign language and limited release films growing up in northwest Ohio was a matter of some regret when I was in high school. I can still remember how excited I was when Dad took me to see the Italian film "Life Is Beautiful" -- when we were on vacation in Orlando. And just a few weeks into my freshman year of college I got two of my roommates to trek across Columbus to a tiny theater showing the German "Run Lola Run."

Besides, by seeing "Norwegian Wood" Paul and I could have a true and traditional date night: dinner and a movie.

"Norwegian Wood" was playing at the IFC Center, a 5-screen theater near New York University that I've passed a million times. When we got there at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, the 7 p.m. showing was already sold out. As we filed into the 9:45 p.m. (also sold out), I could see why -- there were only about 50 seats in the theater.

I was excited to see one of my favorite books being translated into a movie. "Norwegian Wood" was released in Japan at the end of 2010, and I'd been keeping an eye out for a U.S. release date nearly as long. I hadn't checked since before the holidays, however, so I did a quick Google search a few days after returning to New York. It didn't take long to learn that it was to be at the IFC in just a couple of days, on January 6.

The cinematography was beautiful, and the movie was fairly faithful to Haruki Murakami's book (although a large non-essential chunk was, in fact, eliminated in the movie). Still, somehow the movie didn't evoke the same feeling of wonderment, and was at times a bit clunky. So while my first trip to the theater in such a long time wasn't a total success, "Norwegian Wood" was still a must-see for me both as a Murakami fan and as someone with a childhood dream of being able to see foreign films in my own backyard.

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