Saturday, September 09, 2006


Well. I had been planning on writing a review of the film UGETSU, which is playing in a new 35mm print at NY’s premier repertory theatre. Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you much of anything about the movie because the screening featured what is rapidly becoming the bane of my movie-going life: a pain in the ass little old woman with incessantly rustling plastic bags. A polite request to keep the bags quiet being simply ignored, I finally had to grab the plastic bag to get the old bitch’s attention and fiercely whisper to keep the bags quiet. I wasn't so irritated that I forgot to say please. I think I scared the hateful harpy into silence: there were only occasional and acceptable sounds from her direction for the rest of the film, by which time it was, alas, too late. The movie had been ruined. Evil old baggage. There's a special place in hell for her and all like her who annoy in theatres.

It isn’t like this is an isolated occurrence. I seem to be something of a magnet in this regard. My partner Bob told me that he’d never had such a problem with difficult audiences as he started having when we started seeing each other. Here are some examples:

A recent Kurosawa series had as a regular attendee an elderly Asian lady, a prototypical bag rustler. I had to ask her to keep her bags quiet at three separate screenings. I was finally thanked by another regular attendee who didn’t have the balls to do it herself.

A screening of HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN was ruined by a man with his children, who were all loudly rustling cheap plastic bags containing candy smuggled into the theatre from outside. Smuggling doesn't bother me. Why pay $4.50 for a soda when you can get the same thing at the Duane Reade on the corner for a buck? It was the noise that was a pain. Those fucking bags, in a stadium seating theatre, might as well have been rustling right in my eardrum. A polite request to please keep the bags quiet was answered with a loud “No!” (we let it go at that, and didn’t bother asking again). The charming gentleman wasn't as easygoing, though. At the end of the film he stood up and crushed a plastic bag over our heads. I managed to restrain myself from congratulating him on the fine example he was setting for his children, who all seemed cut out for a future asking strangers if they want fries with that.

A 3-D screening of DIAL M FOR MURDER was ruined by a gentleman who seemed to have been both a compulsive smoker and completely unschooled in the use of soap. He was sitting directly in front of Bob and me, and it soon became difficult to breathe. I had to wrap my scarf around my face by the end of the film. This was no ordinary stench. It had texture and body, and even impermeated our clothes and hair. We had to shower when we got home after the movie.

A screening of CAPOTE featured teenagers who loudly stomped into the theatre after the movie started, sat for a few minutes before realizing that they had wandered into the wrong movie and then loudly stomped their way out, and no less than three morons with cellphones. The third cellphoner actually answered the call and went into the first three rows of the theatre to talk. My heart was gladdened when about 3 people went up to her to tell her take the call outside.

A screening of THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING featured a pair of idiots in love with potato chip bags that could be plainly heard throughout the film, and who resisted numerous requests from numerous patrons to keep quiet. Someone finally shouted to them to let us watch the final 20 minutes of the movie in peace. Think about that. Someone actually drowned out THE RETURN OF THE KING with a bag of chips.

A play entitled 36 VIEWS was ruined by an elderly gentleman with plastic bags. The bags rustled and rustled and rustled, and numerous requests for silence were unheeded. At the intermission, everyone within a six person radius of the old man descended on him. Only the timely intervention of the house manager saved him from being torn limb from goddamn limb.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect people to sit in monastic silence throughout a movie or play or whatever. It is only natural to shift in your seat, or occasionally whisper something to your neighbor, or occasionally knock over a soda can, or something. Sounds happen. But to sit there rustling those goddamn plastic bags, or gab on your cellphone, or make idiotic comments in full voice over and over again is more than inconsiderate, it is just plain flat out rude. And I’m finding my patience for these morons to be getting shorter and shorter. Today I was briefly concerned that I’d frightened the old bitch behind me into a stroke, but only very briefly. Fuck her if she’s had a stroke, I thought to myself, at least she’s quiet.


Pooji said...

There is an obvious solution.

Bring your own plastic bags. If they offend, place your bag over their head. Hold tightly closed for approximately five minutes. Enjoy the rest of the movie in peace & quiet.

Pooji said...

After my last comment, I remembered an even more annoying incident that happened years ago.

My wife and I went to see Hal Holbrook in MARK TWAIN TONIGHT. We were pretty excited about seeing this show, because I'd heard about it for years but never had the chance to see it. And Hal Holbrook is one of my favorite actors (ever since CREEPSHOW).

We had pretty good seats, and Hal was great (no surprise there), but during the show--
I can't believe this really happened
--the lady in front of us kept flossing her teeth.

I kid you not.

Flossing her teeth.

When we realized what was happening, my wife and I were both so flabbergasted that we didn't know what to do.

Sadly, what I remember most about Hal Holbrook in MARK TWAIN TONIGHT--my most vivid memory--is that some inconsiderate cunt was flossing her teeth in the middle of the show.

When I ascend to godhood, this woman will pay. Dearly. I think I'll send her on a date with Ed Gein. He can floss her teeth for her. With a chainsaw.

Addison DeWitt said...

I basically stopped going to movies years ago because of the high rate of people eating noisemaking food (even popcorn isn’t silent), offering running commentary, and, of course, those ubiquitous plastic bags.

But my work has me in theatres on the average of one out of every three nights, so I get my share of it, albeit it in the rarefied world of opera and ballet the problems are usually more related to jangling jewelry and – the personal bane of my little existence – program books.

I have a fantasy of running a theatre which would BAN taking ANYTHING into the auditorium with you. Programs books would be sold only AFTER the performance, and there would be a pre-performance chat or some kind of lobby video device offering a synopsis, essays, whatever, for anyone who really needed some background.

I cannot believe the stuff people tolerate, even at places like the big summer music festivals where tickets go for up to $500. Lord knows, I have perfected the evil stare which silently shouts “shut the fuck up,” but sometimes more drastic measures are called for.

I just remembered a New York Philharmonic concert, eons ago when I had a Saturday night subscription, which opened with some obscure 20th century choral piece that begins super-pianissimo. The ambient noise from the orchestra seats drowned out the first three minutes of the work, and then some idiot a few rows in front of me started flipping through her program and came to a puzzle (yes, the folks at Lincoln Center generously supplied a little diversion for its audiences), clanked open her purse, pulled out a pen, snapped it open, and started doing the puzzle.

My favorite story involves a late friend who, in the early 1970s, had a Metropolitan Opera subscription in the steeply-raked Family Circle. One night, the little old lady behind him would not heed his stares to stop fiddling with her program. Lloyd, an exceedingly tall fellow, stood up and turned around, grabbed the program from her hands, and sat down in triumph, returning the program to her at the end of the performance.

By the way, the €25 program book at the Bayreuth Festival this year came in a cloth tote bag, as opposed to the paper shopping bag of seasons past. A woman in the press office explained it for me: “It doesn’t make any noise.”