SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP
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.