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Olhão Cinema Club

The Clube de Cinema de Olhão (CCO), which was housed in the building of the Sociedade Recreativa Progresso Olhanense, showed somed year ago one of her last films. It was Cold War / Guerra Fria by director Pawel Pawlikowski, with which he won the prize as best director at the Cannes film festival that year. The building of also that year's 100th anniversary Sociedade Recreativa Progresso Olhanense - not to be confused with RE-Creativa 14 which is a little further away - is still located on the top floor of a stately building at Avenida da Republica 69 with a large Chinese store underneath with the usual knick-knacks. It is one of the more beautiful eclectic buildings from the early 1900s with its proud, wide doorways on the ground floor and its frivolous glass areas with fine frame details in beautiful natural stone frames on the first floor, marked by a continuous open balcony railing that looks like lace and that in the same shape returns to the upper platibanda. The composition is continued in two separate balconies around the beautifully decorated rounded corner to the Rua General Humberto Delgado.

Via a beautifully old stone staircase that starts immediately after the two swinging doors, I reach the top floor where I find a surprisingly large space, which contains the social rooms at the front and a cinema room for more than 200 people at the back. The faded glory greets me on the stairs with the peeling and curling paint that once made the beautiful and high ceiling shine with decorations and lamps from times long past.

During the day the society is open from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM. There is a buffet with a kitchen where the manager - who cannot always be open on time due to his ill wife - prepares drinks and snacks. There is a bright room with wide French doors to the balcony, which overlooks the Avenida da Republica, which I sometimes jokingly call the “Little Ramblas". Here, during the day, men with weathered heads sit at bare tables playing dominoes and cards. There are notices on the wall stating that making a mess on the floor is not acceptable and that the TV in the library/reading room, with old and yellowed encyclopedias in the cupboards, may only be operated by the manager.

Every Wednesday evening at 9:30 PM there was for many years the film club and the building is in the hands of volunteers who ensure that the international range of Art movies does not pass Olhão by. At the entrance to the room with balcony boxes there was a box for a voluntary contribution because entrance always was free.

The room, filled with two rows of upholstered folding chairs from the 1950s, has a slight musty smell that you expect from such an old room. Once the audience - about 25 in number - has taken their seats spread across the hall, the preview of the films of the coming weeks will start. When the light comes on again - via a vintage old chandelier in the middle of the room - the organizer introduces the evening's film.

Cold war is a sensitive film about the impossibilities of love and the struggle between two different people and their worlds in 1950s Poland. It features beautiful music that varies from folkloric choral music to bebop jazz. The highlight is when the protagonist's lover, singer Zula, performs an old Polish love song that she sings in a traditional way at the beginning of the film, after many wanderings in Paris, in a Jazz version. Goosebumps, but I also get that from the ambiance that surrounds the cinema and the club building. It is as if time stands still for a moment and I am standing in the Forum cinema from my youth in Sittard (Netherlands).

When I walk down the stone stairs afterwards and emerge through the swinging doors into a windy night-time boulevard, many catering establishments are already closed. Only the Cafe Espanha further away is completely full and people are still watching TV. There is a last look at the illuminated top floor, where the organizer of the cinema club says goodbye to the last guests and then disappears into the night of Olhão, just like everyone else.

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