Let me begin by assuring you that I am not one of those types. I am not one of those intent, myopic little fellows who frowns at the movie screen at the slightest disturbance, directing vicious shushes at old women crinkling their plastic bags of pharmaceuticals because “FOR GOD’S SAKE, I AM TRYING TO WATCH THE FILM!” Yes, I get annoyed, as anyone does, but I’m not about to give up on going to the movies because of it, not to hermetically seal myself in front of my entertainment center with my sacred Criterion texts and my perfect, tastefully silent right-ness. “These people don’t respect the movies” goes the old gripe, but it’s that very disrespect which gives me a little hope for the medium. People respect the dead–and they respect symphony orchestras. So long as screenings aren’t followed by a placid chorus of obligatory applause, we’re still alive in the movie theater.
As pissed off as I may get at an audience that moans or giggles at the very things that I find most dear, most profound, and most lovely, I likewise realize that the experience of matching my sense of beauty against another’s eye-rolling contempt is a valuable element of not only the filmgoing experience, but of how I’ve defined myself in my adult life. Watching ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ in a Midwestern mall movie theatre, stock-sober and seduced, while the crowd cracked up, noisily left their seats, asked for money back. Exiting a showing of ‘Witchfinder General,’ overcome, only to hear some crass bitch snort, “No wonder the director killed himself–he was ashamed!” These are definitive, concise moments in which I’ve truly seen the dimensions of my own difference. And as much as I value those vaunted “communal” moments at the movies, I think that I treasure incidents like this even more. There’s a certain glee in entrenching oneself in smug isolation from some part of the crowd, in discovering that I can react with effortless, intuitive love to something that’s a punchline to the man in front of me, that I can cry while someone else is whispering “What is this piece of shit?” That is going to the movies, and I firmly believe that true film lovers can’t let priggishness and puritan pedantry dampen us to that experience.
But. Ladies. Gentlemen. I am really, truly, clueless as to how you managed to cut up at ‘The Wrong Man.’ I hope I don’t sound to condemnatory, but your superior chortling, to these ears, seemed to announce a profound lack from within that I cannot fathom, nor would care to. As to what you seek at the movies, if not merely a quick snort at antique emotions not cut to the familiar, comfortable contemporary cloth, I cannot guess. You seem to me, at best, very oblivious individuals. And I hope that very obliviousness leads you to step in front of an oncoming bus very, very soon.