My strangest screening experience. Yours?
The great pleasure of watching movies on the big screen is that others share the experience, which can magnify it. For instance that night in 1983 I went to an all-media screening for Tootsie, which had negative advance word-of-mouth, and the sound of 1000 people roaring with laughter multiplied the laughs a thousandfold.
But sometimes seeing a film with others has the reverse effect. I’m mostly able to filter out the reactions of others, but certainly not the day I saw Claude Chabrol’s Violette with my parents. They wanted to go to the local art house and the choices were Autumn Sonata, about an estranged mother and daughter, and Violette, about real-life parricide. “Let’s go see Violette,” Mom insisted. “Wouldn’t want your father to feel left out.” So we did. The experience of watching a teenage girl poison her parents while sitting next to my own was…curious, like killing your parents and having them, too.
Even curiouser: the 1997 press screening of Boogie Nights at the Toronto Film Festival. The positive buzz was deafening and there was a crush to find seats. I found one next to the late Ray Posel, owner of Philadelphia’s art house chain the Ritz theaters. And invited Roger Ebert to sit in the vacant seat on my right. I’d seen dozens of films with each of them without incident, oblivious to their reactions.
Not that afternoon. From the moment porn director Burt Reynolds tells dishwasher Mark Wahlberg that he had a feeling there was something wonderful in the younger man’s trousers waiting to get out, Ray shrank in horror from the screen as Roger inched forward in his seat. It was almost comical. I felt like a seesaw fulcrum balancing them. I couldn’t filter out Ray’s disgust or Roger’s enthusiasm. I didn’t know what I thought of the film. Had to see it a second time in order to review it.
Curiousest: Last night , to my eternal embarrassment, I took my 16-year-old daughter and a friend to see Ted, another Mark Wahlberg movie. I knew it was raunchy, but not that raunchy. As I stifled laughter at the sight of telltale cocaine dust below the button nose of a plush toy, Daughter sat rigid in her seat. I enjoyed the movie, but every time I laughed I felt my daughter’s discomfiture at the inappropriateness of seeing this while sitting next to Mom.
Your strangest movie experience?