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Seeing movies alone

Posted at 6:02 PM on September 2, 2005 by Euan Kerr (2 Comments)

Euan Kerr here, one more time. The Maven has been leaving demanding phone messages, wanting to know about upcoming screenings, so it's clear she'll be back next week.

I saw a really good movie this morning, but I'm not going to tell you anything about it, at least at the moment. It was Neil Jordan's "Breakfast on Pluto" which will go on general release later in the year I believe.

The reason I'm keeping mum on the movie is I saw it at a press preview, and there is a certain understanding amongst the ink-stained movie wretches about how these things go down.

I have to say though, the whole press screening deal is just wierd. I have been to many over the years, but it still seems wonderous strange to me.

Basically film critics, journalists and other ne'er-do-wells congregate early in the day at some designated movie house to watch a film weeks, or even months, before the public gets to lay eyes on it.

I probably shouldn't say this too loudly, but there is just something magically special about these screenings. Yet part of the magic is how important it it to act like you really don't give a rip.

Everyone kind of grunts 'hello,' and then finds a seat away from anyone else. We all sit in the dark for the movie, and then quietly file out, rarely saying much to the other folk. It may be the critics don't want to give away what they are going to write about. There's You just kind of grunt again, then leave the theater, and get on with life.

I once watched a film on a giant screen in a 5,000 seat cinema in Edinburgh with only three other people in the place. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle, but at the end all we talked about was how ludicrous the host of a local radio show looked wearing jeans tucked into his cowboy boots.

Another time I watched the terrific cinematic adaptation of Tom Stoppard's 'Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead' with Tim Roth and Gary Oldham. If you haven't seen it, and appreciate beautifully crafted wordplay, you should put it on your 'must rent' list. Anyway, having just basked in this experience alone, I walked out into the theater lobby and bumped into Stoppard himself. I knew he was around, but talk about surreal!

One of the challenges of the screenings is how to take good notes. I have yet to master the art of writing legibly in the dark. I have come out of screenings to find I have written all my deep insights one on top of another, so I can't make sense of any of them. Some critics take those pens with little lights in them. I took a flashlight today, but all I used it for was to make sure I hadn't dropped anything.

The real press screening for 'Breakfast on Pluto' was actually yesterday, but I couldn't make it, and there are no tapes available yet. Neil Jordon is coming into town soon for interviews, and so I had to see the film. The folks at the Edina kindly screened the film just for me.

There's a lot in this movie, and I am afraid I kind of broke the rules about not talking afterwards. I pounced on the projectionist who admitted he'd been watching too, and asked him what he thought. He claimed he has liked it too, and compared it to another movie which I had not even thought about. I think I may try to break that rule again.

And I hope never get so jaded that the magic of those screenings wears off.

Comments (2)

What is your role as a "Movie Maven"? I often wonder when I read reviews, do these critics see so much that they watch a movie differently, or are they simply breaking the film down according to technical aspects that most of us don't consider. A critic says a movie is great, I watch it, and I am sometimes left wondering what they were talking about. While I appreciate the insite and depth that some reviews have, sometimes I just wish I hadn't read the critique. You might consider having multiple critics on the air one after the other. When people watch a movie from one person to the next they are looking to get womething different out of it. Some are looking for a lesson, some want to have something to think about, others are looking for the emotion the film brings forth. Still their are those who are just looking for an escape and a chance to let go and be entertained.

Posted by Jeremiah Johnson | September 3, 2005 3:32 PM

That's a very good question. First of all though, I ain't the Movie Maven. That's Stephanie.

The bottom line is there is no review that is going to be perfect for every movie fan. A review is an opinion, and any opinion is informed by a myriad of influences.

I'm a middle-aged Scots guy, who grew up watching cowboy movies because my Dad loved them, listening to glam rock because there was rarely anything else on the radio at the time, and reading Ian Fleming and Alisdair MacLean novels because I thought they were the coolest books on the planet.

I have shed those afflictions now, (although hearing a good Slade or Sweet tune is still a treat,) yet I know from my college psych classes (another huge influence) that things can come back at the strangest of times, especially when I am thinking about movies. There are a whole lot of other influences that have erupted over the years, and they all form my worldview. I am sure it's the same for all critics. (Not that I really consider myself a critic, but that's a whole other column.)

The challenge for movie-goers is to use the information you find in reviews, or blogs, or wherever, and see where it fits in the larger puzzle of your own world experience.

For years I studiously avoided reading anything about a movie I was going to see because I wanted to have a purer experience. The I would tgo an read as many reviews as I could find to compare notes. While I am perhaps not as hard-core as in the past, I still try to go in with little more than the basics, as in director, actors, and a vague understanding of the subject. Nowadays, given the blitz of information that now attends any movie release, that can be tough, but I think it's worth trying.

So am I arguing you should perhaps not read this blog before you go see a movie? Perhaps.... perhaps. (Man, the Maven is going to be unpleased when she returns.)

Posted by Euan Kerr | September 5, 2005 12:13 PM

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