Wednesday 13 April 2011

A Turkish Delight - No Popcorn Here

Hungarians are, by nature, pessimistic. It comes as little in the way of surprise, therefore, that their annual film festival, now in its eighteenth year, should be titled 'Titanic'. Whilst a dictionary would define the word as 'of strength, size and power', the common association is of tragedy and disaster, recalling of course the sinking of the White Star liner of that name in April 1912.

But a visit to the Uránia cinema is never a downward experience, and a screening of 'Curling', a French language film by Canadian director Denis Coté was certainly no exception.

a still from the film 'Curling'

For should the film ever prove tedious, and this was definitely not the case of last night's thriller set against a bleak snow filled landscape of lonely motels, bowling alleys and frozen woods, then the experience of the Uránia itself would never fail but to excite interest.

Uránia cinema - entrance

Opened as a live theatre in 1899, by 1916 the Uránia had become a full time cinema and has continued in that role right up until the present day. A mixture of exotic Moorish and Venetian Gothic architecture the entire building, both inside and out, is a marvellous fantasy of mosaic, mirror, gold, glitter and glass.

Uránia cinema - interior of the auditorium

Within, the 700 seat auditorium remains remarkably unchanged, an architectural delight of period lighting, tiered balconies and mysterious side aisles. A heavily curtained proscenium arch conceals the wide screen, only to be tantalisingly revealed as the lights dim and the credits roll at the onset of the film.  

The Uránia is but one of many Art cinemas in a city which, happily for us, continues to regard film as a serious art form. With the arrival of friends, Stephen and Simon, tomorrow, the promise of 'My Perestroika' to be shown on Saturday is a date not to be missed.


  1. It looks beautiful! My husband's ancestry is Hungarian - we'd love to visit there sometime XOL

  2. More aqua and red! Love it....
    Happy to have a post to respond to keep at it...
    Hungary is on my bucket list for sure.

  3. Happy Homemaker UK:
    How extraordinary that your husband's family originates in Hungary. It is, indeed, a small world. And yes, it is a wonderful country and Budapest is a magical city.
    Thank you so much for becoming a Follower - it is much appreciated.

  4. Concrete Jungle:
    'Curling' is filled with recurring red images, something in the way of 'Don't Look Now'. One day do find time to visit Budapest - well worth the journey [for you, rather a long one!].

  5. It has been really interesting to read your insiders view of the film festival. It just happens that we do have a film festival in San Sebastian too, at the end of September. We never miss it!

  6. Pet:
    Such good news that you too have a film festival. They are a really excellent way of seeing so many low budget films, often by untried and untested directors, which seldom make it to the big screen.

  7. A beautiful post. The cinema used to be a place to escape from the grim reality of life. The interior of Urania cinema is full of oldy worldy charm. It looks as if the whole place has been untouched by time. I hope you and your friends have a lovely time at the cinema this weekend.

    I've been to an art deco cinema in Newcastle called Tynside Cinema, described by the The Guardian newspaper as "perhaps the finest independent cinema in the country". It specialise in World, Independent and Art House films. Everytime I went in, I felt as if I was going into the world of fantasy (the world of sophisticated French characters looking for a perfect holiday spot for their summer in Bordeaux or Provence). It's so far removed from the cold sobering reality of the North.

  8. There are not many of these old type of cinemas or theatres around, and it is such a shame that may were demolished to make way for other unispiring buildings. MAny were demolished in Australia in the late 70' and early 80's.

    Re 'Curling' I have heard of it and have yet to see it.

  9. A Super Dilettante:
    You are so close to the truth when you say of the Uránia [and indeed the same could be said of much of Budapest]that it looks as if it has been untouched by time.
    The Tynside Cinema sounds more than perfect - and your description of characters in search of the ideal spot for a summer break so very evocative of a French or Italian film. We all need some form of escapism from time to time!

  10. David Toms:
    It is indeed one of the sadnesses of C21 living that, as you remark, so many fine buildings of the past have been replaced with those which at best may be described as mediocre. Clearly it is the same the world over - Australia, Europe and America.

  11. Hello, thank you for your lovely comment on my blog. Brighton is one of my favourite places, full of childhood memories, and Budapest has long been on my must visit whilst I can still walk list. So I'm delighted you found me and I can now read installments of your particular tale of two cities.

    I'm very taken with the Uránia.

  12. Eryl:
    How really kind of you to come over, and to Follow!

    Brighton certainly is a lively city and we much enjoy the contrast which it makes with Budapest. And yes, when you are able to visit, then the Uránia is certainly a 'must see'.

  13. What an amazing place, if I were there I'd be drinking in the building and surroundings as much as any film. So much beauty in the history, the whole practicality of beauty, which is so often lacking in buildings of a more recent age.

  14. Jason Shaw:
    You are so right when you say that with so many more modern buildings there is a complete absence of beauty. Whatever, we do admit that the Uránia is very special and, as you may imagine, totally atmospheric.

  15. Hello tank you for your lovely comment, i had almost lost hope of finding someone visitor... Thanks a lot for join to my blog as a fixed riders i promise not disappoint!!!

    Many greetings,

  16. The Moorish/ Venetian aesthetic and style seems to coincide with the tail end of the Victorian era. The style wasn't popular for very long, and really one doesn't seem many surviving examples of these Scherezade interiors.

    Of course the quality and detail are not comparable with anything done today, and it is difficult to get craftspeople when restorations are necessary for such buildings. Especially in America.

    The style was also popular in wealthier residential interiors, and Tiffany even designed silverware in such a style. It was fashionable to lounge on big cushions and smoke in such rooms.

    What could be more different from the bland, minimalist, neutral rooms of today?

  17. Eva:
    It is a great pleasure - we all need encouragement from time to time and we shall look forward to keeping in touch.

  18. Square with Flair:
    Yes, you are absolutely right about the difficulties of finding craftsmen [or craftswoman] able to carry out restoration work of a quality equal to that of the past.

    Tiffany, or Tiffany style, items are still very popular here, particularly lamps. The originals are, of course, hugely expensive.

    Have we gone too far down the minimalist road, we wonder, with interiors totally lacking in character?

  19. Hello. I happily happened on your blog (through your post on Sarah Melling's blog). I agree with you all about the demise of the small independent book shops, and I have watched with dismay the same thing happen here in the NW US. On another note, I love your blog! Your posts are interesting and a visual treat. It's great to have a little window in to Europe and the UK. I am a follower!

  20. Elizabeth Rose Stanton:
    We are delighted to welcome you as a Follower, and thank you so much for your very kind comment. We shall very much look forward to keeping in touch.

  21. Hello,
    Very interesting posts. But I can't resist and have to ask if you are familiar with Edith's Hope garden journal
    You sound like kindred spirits - Hungary, Brighton and the style of writing. Unfortunately she stopped blogging.
    It's good to see this style continued :)

  22. Dear Jane and Lance, the cinema looks absolutely wonderful! I like the sound of the film too.

    My local art deco cinema in Upper Street has been refurbished and now you book a sofa for two with a footstool, it has waiter service and fancy bar snacks. I love going to the cinema now. Have a great Friday xx

  23. Bozena Wojtaszek:
    How strange that you should ask!Edith Hope is known to us and has been instrumental in persuading us to start our own blog.

    Thank you for your kind words and for taking the time to visit.

  24. Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted:
    How splendid your cinema in Upper Street sounds. The Uránia, in all its glory, cannot rival sofas, footstools and waiters. Rather like being in an hotel, we imagine. Do people stay there all night?!!

  25. Thank you for popping over and for your lovely comment. Your blog looks delicious - trying to hide my envy at your international adventures (says me, land-locked in the midlands while the kids are tied to schools, etc). Love the way you claim no one would want to employ you... looking forward to hearing and seeing more of the beauties of Budapest, both architectural and human.

  26. The Urania has a very Byzantine look to it. A bit of East and West. It makes you look twice and keeps you guessing. Lovely post and lovely blog!

  27. What a stunning cinema, I have not been to the cinema for ages, living in rural France does have it's drawbacks and one of them is you have to travel an awfully long way to see a film in VO (Version Originale).

  28. The interior of the theatre is stunning. How sad that we once had magnificent places like that to watch movies here in the US but are now relegated to narrow black boxes lit by neon cine-plex. Love your blog.

  29. Trashsparkle:
    Thank you for such a very generous comment. We are delighted that you find the blog of interest and very much look forward to the future exchange of ideas and opinions.

    Meanwhile, have a very happy weekend.

  30. BruttiBuoni:
    As you rightly say, the Uránia is a great mix of east and west architectural styles. This very much corresponds with the architecture of Hungary, even today, which is best described as eclectic. The new National Theatre is a fine example of this.

  31. Dash:
    Having spent many years living in the depths of Herefordshire, we do know exactly what you mean about the absence of a cinema and, indeed, much else.

    However, France is a most beautiful country and to be there in the heart of the countryside is something to be treasured.

  32. DearHelenHartman:
    Oh dear, we know exactly what you mean - those soulless modern boxes, all alike, which are today's cinemas and which are totally lacking in character. England has certainly lost the majority of its original, interesting, small Arts cinemas.

    And thank you for such a generous comment.

  33. utterly brilliant...I share Christina's cinema on Upper Street and am a huge fan of the movies but I think a night out at your cinema would really be rather special!!

  34. Young at Heart:
    The Upper Street cinema sounds equally wonderful, even if in a different way from the Uránia. We are particularly fortunate in Budapest for we still have an appreciable number of small Arts cinemas offering a wide range of international films.

  35. Wow! What amazing architecture. It beggars belief that such buildings have been knocked down to make way for new developments. Hurray to Budapest for keeping it intact!

  36. Annie [Lady M]:
    We do so agree, the destruction of fine buildings which has taken place in recent years is beyond belief.

    Thank you so much for your comments, both of which we published, one of which appears to have disappeared into cyberspace! These things do seem to happen from time to time - the wonders of modern technology out of control!!

    Thank you so much for becoming a Follower. It is very much appreciated.

  37. Jane, Thank you for popping in for a visit to my blog.. I love yours and will come and visit often! Enjoy the "Bucks Fizzes"!!!!

    and Happy Weekend!!

  38. What a wonderful blog you have. I have a soft spot for beautiful theatres. I was a theatre major in college and regard the stage and space as being very special, indeed. Cinema houses- no different. Thanks for sharing these great pictures and thank you for your comment on my blog x

  39. Ivy Lane:
    Thank you for your very kind comment. The Bucks Fizz were excellent and made a very good start to a Saturday morning!

  40. The Daily Connoisseur:
    We are so pleased that you enjoyed the post, particularly with your interest in the theatre. Certainly the Uránia is very special.

    And thank you so much for becoming a Follower. It is much appreciated.

  41. Love it :) The Uránia Cinema's mixture of Moorish and Venetian Gothic would not have been unusual a few decades earlier (eg 1875-1905), when everybody and their brother in Europe wanted oriental and exotic. The confection of mosaic, mirror, gold, glitter and glass must have been thrilling for contemporary cinema goers and even now, still looks a bit exotic.

    It is not a million miles in taste from The Great Synagogue in Dohány Street, I think.

  42. Hels:
    You are so right in what you say here. The last quarter of the C19 must have seen a preponderance of this style, many examples of which may still be found throughout Europe.

    We are delighted that you know of the synagogue in Dohány Street and yes, there are as you point out many similarities. Thank you too not only for your detailed comment but also for becoming a Follower. Both are very much appreciated.

  43. Angry Parsnip:
    Thank you so much for your interesting comment which, in the normal way, we have published but which for some reason fails to appear although it is located among all of our comments. We are not at all sure why this is the case and will continue to investigate.

    Thank you too for becoming a Follower - it is very much appreciated.

  44. I am truly enjoying this visit to Budapest with you both on such a dull & dreary Irish morning. All I need to go with my big cup of tea and cigarette is a lovely pastry from Gerbeaud! The Uránia is somewhere I must visit as I love this era of architecture (minimalist does not exist in DollyWorld). This weekend I watched the dvd Children of Glory which took place in the Revolution of 1956.

  45. Dolly:
    We are so pleased that you are enjoying your tour round our blog and Budapest in the process. How lovely to receive your comments along the way!!!

    Yes, we are maximalists too and the Uránia has a special appeal for us. We have seen 'Children of Glory' and thought it to be a marvellous film. We hope that you enjoyed it too.

  46. Yes I enjoyed it, though it was so sad in places. But, I presume, faithful to the story. I also saw a wonderful film about a woman dying in a Budapest hospice, and her old lover from the Revolution days who came to visit her from Switzerland. He discovered he was the father of her daughter. I wish I had written the name down as I would like to buy the dvd. Do you know the film at all? It was so beautifully filmed and acted.

  47. Dolly[again]:
    Yes, very sad but so well acted and the filming looked incredibly authentic. We loved, of course, trying to spot the various places in Budapest.

    We do not know of the second film which you mention but it sounds rather too traumatic a subject for us.


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