Monday, January 28, 2008

strangers in the dark

As a shusher, movie going in Santa Fe has always been especially frustrating. Nowhere else I've ever been have people been more inclined to bring their own sandwich (covered in the most odorous of condiments and wrapped, of course, in loud, crinkly paper), answer their phones ("Can I call back, I'm in a movie...what...what...hang on...I'") or chat openly with the person they came with about the movie, or worse, something else entirely.

So I was shocked on Saturday night when I hit DeVargas for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The small theater was packed, some of us straining awkwardly to get a good view of the screen. During previews people muttered about being uncomfortable, discussed whether the preview looked like something they wanted to see and asked their partners about other films the actors had been in. But then, when the movie began. Nothing. For the full two hours of the film: nothing. A man gasped at a scene that made him unnerved, but his reaction wasn't the inconsiderate chit chat that so often fills movie houses. It was heartfelt, neurotic, uncontrollable fear. When the film ended and the credits began to roll the silence continued. There was none of the clapping that often (and so oddly) follows a good film. Just a mesmerized audience who didn't quite have the bearings to go back out into the real world.

I would like to invite that entire audience to see every movie I ever go to. They were perfect and polite. And yes, the film was fantastic.

If only that little bubble of joy could have lasted forever. Alas, the very next night I tested my luck at Once Upon A Time In The West. Really, beer? I know it's a Western, but there's just no need for an audience to crack open cans of beer in the middle of a film, is there? The individually wrapped candies were a nice touch too. But the prize for worst theatergoer goes to the man who'd obviously seen the film a few times, probably one of his favorites, and ruined every ounce of suspense for me (having never seen it) by announcing each plot point aloud before it happened, interjecting his own commentary and identifying the next famous face to come on screen moments before the actor arrived. No amount of hushing or dirty looks would stop him, and he was loud enough that moving seats in the small CCA theater would have been useless. So my companion and I did the only thing we could think to do. We packed up our things and left.

It's a shame, as it was the last night and I'll probably never get the chance to see it on the big screen again. But, then again, if I choose to watch it I can do so by myself and enjoy the surprises the film has to offer all on my own, without the smell of cheap beer accompanying my stranger's soundtrack.