I went to a double bill of Gerard Philipe films today: Fanfan la Tulipe and Les Belles de Nuit. In French with subtitles, I was almost tempted to stay for the third film but was knackered. Wish I had stayed now… but for one thing.
I actually kinda hate going to the cinema. I know, I’m supposed to be a Big Time Movie Fan, but I don’t actually like going to the cinema. I’ve been more times in the last 26 days than I probably went in the entirety of last year and all I can think is how much I don’t actually like the experience. Had I been born, as I might have preferred, in 1901 or 1923 or 1952 or take your pick, I probably wouldn’t think like this. Home video has a lot to answer for, but nothing so much as my intolerance for other people.
I only live about 200 metres from my nearest cinema. I only started using it last 14th February (There Will Be Blood) which should say more about my dislike of ‘going to the movies’ than most other things. Who needs the cinema when one has a TV and a DVD/VHS player? Well, there’s an excellent argument to make that movies should be seen as intended: on big screens with big sound systems. Yes, to a point that’s true, and I suppose my first viewing of Laurence of Arabia on a TV (pretty big, but a TV nonetheless) was different to my mother’s, who saw it at a cinema on Tottenham Court Road. She swears the management turned the heating up during the desert scenes, because you never saw such a queue for the ice cream during the interval.
So far this year/January I’ve seen Australia, The Reader, Che: Part One, Frost/Nixon, Slumdog Millionaire, Steamboat Bill, Jr. and now these two French pictures. Each and every one of these films reminded me in some way that I don’t like going to the movies. Tomorrow I’ll be at Milk, on Friday Revolutionary Road and two weeks later at Che: Part Two (looking forward to that one most) and Doubt. This may be the first year I’ve ever seen all the Oscar nominees before the Oscars themselves, and that’s because of my dislike for going to the cinema.
I just don’t like it. Whoever thought it was a good idea to stuff several hundred people into a darkened room, make them pay over the odds for snacks that are, as a rule, really noisy, and then force them to sit through mind-numbing adverts for twenty minutes before letting them watch what they actually paid money for? Maybe I’d have liked the old days (shocker!) when picture palaces were actually palaces and it really was a bit of a cool thing to go to the movies and people acted accordingly.
First thing I really hate: People that don’t show up on time. I get that there’s stuff going on in people’s lives and that sometimes people just arrive late. However, I have noticed that there’s always someone who arrives literally just as the movie itself is starting. If you turn up after the lights are down but it’s adverts, I don’t care as long as you’re polite and don’t huff at me for having a bag I need to move out of your way. If you turn up during the trailers, then I reserve the right to sneer but probably won’t. If you turn up just as the movie starts and you’re sat in the middle of a row, I will sneer at you, and I will think you’re a fucking idiot. If you also, as I saw the other day, have about six bags with you and make your entrance into a Berkeley-esque number, I will consider tripping you up. I get that sometimes people are late through no fault of their own, but I can’t help thinking it’s the timing of someone who doesn’t want to sit through adverts and trailers. If you’re sat on the end of a row near the back, fine. But don’t buy a ticket for the middle of Row E and expect the rest of us to like it.
Second thing I really hate: Mobile fucking phones. This isn’t so much a problem in the Barbican cinema so far as I’ve noticed as it is in others, but I think that’s just because the audience is generally older/more pretentious. I’ve said this before: if you have something going on in your life that is so important that your phone has to stay on while you’re in the cinema, then you shouldn’t be in the cinema. Seriously: TURN THAT PIECE OF SHIT OFF. Let me restate: there is no excuse for having your phone on in the cinema, let alone pissing about with it while you’re watching. You’ve paid good money to watch said film, so WATCH IT! I remember a friend telling me that he was in the cinema watching something, a real lads movie like The Transporter or some sad waste of celluloid, when he saw a guy playing Snake on his mobile. COME ON! This really is just a matter of simple respect for other human beings. You keep your phone on in the cinema: You immediately fail.
Third thing I really hate: Talking. Seriously. I know I must do it when I’m with people, but I know (I hope) how to keep my voice down. I know during a viewing of Kate and Leopold I nearly got smacked in the face for talking, but that was by my best friend and it was a dreadful movie I was taking the piss out of in order to keep alive. Now, I get that sometimes funny or sad things happen and we want to share our emotion with the person next to us. However: DO IT QUIETLY! Save it until the post-movie post-mortem. SHUT UP! Again, it’s just a question of respect for the fact that the other people in the cinema don’t give a shit what you think about *insert name here*’s dress/hair/legs/whatever.
Fourth thing I really hate: Snacks. Aside from the fact that they’re always overpriced, it’s always noisy stuff. Popcorn, which is never quiet from the moment it’s made to the moment it finally inches down the eater’s oesophagus. Chocolate in rustly bags. Ice cream is OK unless the people around you insist on scraping the last tiny drops from the tub or crunch the cone. I had this problem earlier with a big bar of Mint Aero. At least at home all I have to worry about is not getting ice cream all over my fuzzy green blanket, right?
Fifth thing I hate: People’s heads. This isn’t so bad a problem as I remember as a kid for two reasons: I’m a little taller now, and many cinemas have been redesigned somewhat to have bigger seats and better spacing between rows. However, I am pretty short and if I get a tall person in the two or three rows in front, my view is going to be a bit screwed. I noticed that earlier: woman with big hair two rows in front insisted on sitting upright like she had a rod in her back, and I did actually miss bits of subtitles at the end of lines. This is not quite as irritating as the taller people who fidget all the time. Now, I’m pretty fidgety myself but I try to stop myself and I’m short, so at least I’m not getting in people’s way. During Frost/Nixon, I had to move around a fair bit because the head in front kept moving.
Sixth thing I hate: Being at the mercy of distributors and cinema managers/schedulers. We have a lot of choice these days, a lot more than once upon a time, but we’re still limited to what particular cinemas will show at the times they want us to. I would love to see The Sheik and The Son of the Sheik in a movie theatre, but I am not likely to unless some cinema decides to show them at a time and place I can attend. I’d love to see Lawrence of Arabia as Mr Lean intended, but how often does that happen?
Seventh thing I hate: Lack of control. I think this is probably the big one. I don’t like not having control of everything. I’m not allowed to pause the film to go to the toilet or because I’m bored or because I want to watch whatever’s on Dave at 9. I don’t get to decide when I watch and I haven’t tried yet but I presume going to the cinema in your PJs is frowned on. I can’t sit and eat my dinner in a movie theatre. I can’t be on the computer at the same time, because wow, would that make me the worst example of the Second thing I hate! I can’t rewind if I don’t hear a bit or miss a bit and I can’t put on the subtitles as is my curious habit. Except when I saw Prince Caspian, which by strange quirk was subtitled and of course, I didn’t like it in that context.
I just don’t like the cinema in comparison to watching at home, and if a movie is good enough, then a smaller screen is not the hindrance one might think. I find myself in the cinema waiting and wondering when it’s going to be over, no matter how much I’m enjoying the film itself. Even during Frost/Nixon, which I thought was fantastic, I was constantly thinking ‘is it finished yet?’
Anyway, change of subject…
Gerard Philipe was very good. I was expecting a French James Dean given that the films were being shown as part of a series called ‘What You Got? Rebel Icons on Screen’… and instead got, quite delightfully, a French Errol Flynn. Perhaps it was the style of the films I saw, and I’m sure other Philipe films are much more… rebellious, including the film I didn’t stay for. But from the first moment in Fanfan la Tulipe, when he sat up in a haystack with a young maiden and started being cocky towards her enraged father, I knew I’d like it. I’m now watching The Sea Hawk actually, reunited after quite a long absence, with my old divil Flynn. It’s very easy to dismiss swashbuckler movies and the lighthearted stuff as meaningless, but I disagree. Fanfan la Tulipe was bitingly funny and cutting towards war and those who wage it. The Sea Hawk is quite the allegory for the war that was raging when it was released in 1940. Errol Flynn, that is the idea that is Flynn, might seem to the outsiders and the uninformed to just be so much posturing, but really he was and is so much more than that. If it were just smirking, sword-waving and notoriety, why, I’d be a Fairbanks Jr fan.