Each month, I write a column for Transistor (http://www.transistormag.com) called CTRL+ALT+DULUTH. (Yes, it plays on the "duh-LOOT" pronunciation.) Below is the text from last week's issue:
"Well, in Amsterdam, you can buy beer in a movie theater. And I don't mean in a paper cup either. They give you a glass of beer, like in a bar."
Sipping a pint of Newcastle and staring up at the two-story movie mural that dominates the lobby at Zinema 2, Duluth’s sleek new indie movie theater, I couldn’t help but recall Vincent Vega’s classic rundown of the “little differences” between Europe and America in Pulp Fiction.
So has Duluth gone all “continental” with Zinema 2’s arrival? Well, let’s just say that you’re still safer smoking your spliffs on the concrete stairs between 1st and 2nd Streets at 6 Ave. E. than at Jitters or Beaners.
That said, the theater offers the kind of slick, smart and sophisticated experience that you can’t get anywhere else in the Twin Ports. If you caught a slight whiff of pretense and snobbery in that last statement, let me go full Drakkar Noir on you: My wife likened the experience of watching Duncan Jones’ (who happens to be David Bowie’s son) sci-fi mind-fuck “Moon” with a Guinness in her hand to that first shower you take after a week in the Boundary Waters. (Note to editor: She will write this column from here on out.)
In fact, it’s not hard to imagine a little culture clash brewing on the west end of downtown between Zinema’s cultured clientele and patrons of the block’s coarser entertainment options: the NorShor and Fond du Luth Casino.
On the one hand, you’ve got a venue whose films draw people interested in exploring existential questions like, “Is life worth living?” “Is our economic system just?” and “Is love possible?” On the other, you’ve got two buildings full of people who would seem to answer such questions in the negative by habitually pouring their meager paychecks and government assistance stipends into slot machines and strangers’ thongs.
This is not to say that Zinema 2 and its indie fare have nothing to offer those with more prurient predilections. If you’ve ever had access to the IFC and Sundance channels as part of your cable package, then you know that art-house auteurs can hang with the best of them when it comes to serving up skin. It’s one of cinema’s most durable double standards: Take two movies – both composed of about 90 percent f*cking. Set one in a modern-day suburban living room between a bored housewife and a plumber and it’s pornography. Set the other in 17th Century China between a noblewoman and a servant boy and it’s “a heart-wrenching, coming-of-age tale of forbidden passion and class division.”
Granted, Zinema’s lineups have proved pretty tame so far. But when attendance starts dropping with the temperatures this fall, don’t be surprised if you notice a turn toward fare that’s, er, progressively racy. That’s when you just might see some of those little differences between one side of the block and the other melt away.