An Open Letter to the Audience Members Who Laughed at the Most Baffling Times During The Wrong Man

by filmenthusiast2000
January 5, 2006 6:31 AM
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Ladies. Gentlemen.

Let me begin by assuring you that I am not one of those types. I am not one of those intent, myopic little fellows who frowns at the movie screen at the slightest disturbance, directing vicious shushes at old women crinkling their plastic bags of pharmaceuticals because "FOR GOD'S SAKE, I AM TRYING TO WATCH THE FILM!" Yes, I get annoyed, as anyone does, but I'm not about to give up on going to the movies because of it, not to hermetically seal myself in front of my entertainment center with my sacred Criterion texts and my perfect, tastefully silent right-ness. "These people don't respect the movies" goes the old gripe, but it's that very disrespect which gives me a little hope for the medium. People respect the dead--and they respect symphony orchestras. So long as screenings aren't followed by a placid chorus of obligatory applause, we're still alive in the movie theater.

As pissed off as I may get at an audience that moans or giggles at the very things that I find most dear, most profound, and most lovely, I likewise realize that the experience of matching my sense of beauty against another's eye-rolling contempt is a valuable element of not only the filmgoing experience, but of how I've defined myself in my adult life. Watching 'Eyes Wide Shut' in a Midwestern mall movie theatre, stock-sober and seduced, while the crowd cracked up, noisily left their seats, asked for money back. Exiting a showing of 'Witchfinder General,' overcome, only to hear some crass bitch snort, "No wonder the director killed himself--he was ashamed!" These are definitive, concise moments in which I've truly seen the dimensions of my own difference. And as much as I value those vaunted "communal" moments at the movies, I think that I treasure incidents like this even more. There's a certain glee in entrenching oneself in smug isolation from some part of the crowd, in discovering that I can react with effortless, intuitive love to something that's a punchline to the man in front of me, that I can cry while someone else is whispering "What is this piece of shit?" That is going to the movies, and I firmly believe that true film lovers can't let priggishness and puritan pedantry dampen us to that experience.

But. Ladies. Gentlemen. I am really, truly, clueless as to how you managed to cut up at 'The Wrong Man.' I hope I don't sound to condemnatory, but your superior chortling, to these ears, seemed to announce a profound lack from within that I cannot fathom, nor would care to. As to what you seek at the movies, if not merely a quick snort at antique emotions not cut to the familiar, comfortable contemporary cloth, I cannot guess. You seem to me, at best, very oblivious individuals. And I hope that very obliviousness leads you to step in front of an oncoming bus very, very soon.




  • mjr | January 6, 2006 5:22 AMReply

    thank you thank you thank you, filmenthusiast, for so eloquently expressing yr rage. i was at the same screening (possibly -- maybe people were acting like ingrates at all three) and was almost overcome by violent urges.
    one "definitive, concise moment" of reactive difference you brought to mind: "eyes wide shut" (what else?) screened at a certain upstate university campus, where muscleheaded goons and assorted dim-wits giggled with conspicuous discomfort during the gay hotel clerk scene. just the nervous response kubrick wanted to produce.

  • KENCHEN | January 5, 2006 11:12 AMReply

    Floating Clouds, Film Forum, snickering in the row behind me that increased proportionally with the movie's grimness.

  • filmenthusiast2000 | January 5, 2006 8:56 AMReply

    MOMA is the 9th circle of hell for moviegoing. This fact was somewhat obscured in the cavernous 23rd Street Gramercy Theatre, but it's hard to block out the cackling bluehairs in the oft-claustrophobic Roy and Niuta Titus rooms.

    Yeah, one man's profundity can often be another's slapstick. It's hard for me to pass judgement without a moment of circumspection when I've got still-fresh memories of tittering at Private Ryan's "Earn this" and hitting a wall of angry glares. The laughter that really, fundamentally bothers me and, inasmuch as I can gather, most of those who've posted here, is that superior laughter directed at forms of dramatic emotional expression that certain dipshits, reared on a contemporary screen vocabulary of shaky cameras and facile realism, identify as "phony" or "melodramatic." These people, smug in their sense of historical enlightenment, are just garbage.

  • Looker | January 5, 2006 8:44 AMReply

    Gang, I feel your pain. I even wrote about it:

  • Pip Nosher | January 5, 2006 8:01 AMReply

    I was at a MoMA screening of Windsor McCay's brilliant early animations. Among them was "The Sinking of the Lusitania," an animated short about the terrible maritime disaster (a horrific act of terrorism even by today's elevated standards). The film is beautifully animated and given the tremendous loss of life and the depictions of people cascading into the water off the sinking stern, you would think that a New York audience would react with some measure of empathy. There were outright laughs at the end of the film. Gee, I hope I never have to watch "He Who Gets Slapped" at MoMA.

  • tatertot | January 5, 2006 7:53 AMReply

    That's nothing. A couple years ago I sat aghast while a packed audience at the Castro theater in San Francisco laughed their asses off at...RAGING BULL. Funniest movie ever! And let's not even talk about the shit they lost at VERTIGO.

    I feel your pain, dude. Those Film Forum audiences are the worst.

  • robbiefreeling | January 5, 2006 6:52 AMReply

    True dat. It's become so that I can't bring myself to watch anything I hold dear to my heart with an audience that isn't fucking "Singin' in the Rain" (safely protected as it is by non-stop sanctioned guffaws and sighs). One terrible moment: when Catherine Deneuve openly weeps at her mother's kneeside because she was just deflowered AND because her lover is going to war in "Umbrellas of Cherbourg" and a chorus of uncomfortable giggles rose and then seemed to overtake the rest of the movie.

    Oddest moment: when a daffy girl with a wide gaping mouth of toothy glee laughed with head-shaking sighs at James Caan's pummelling of his sister's husband in "The Godfather." Really...what's that about?

  • hhaller | January 5, 2006 6:02 AMReply

    For me it was Grizzly Man recently. Sure Timothy was a nut, and I was laughing in the beginning, but the entire audience seemed to lack basic human empathy as the tragedy deepened. Call me a softy but I thought is was actually kind of, you know sad, watching this man slowly come apart at the seams. To the rest of humanity that night, it was freakin' hilarious.

  • Heather | January 5, 2006 4:21 AMReply

    I've gotten the feeling that they (the gigglers) are afraid to let go and FEEL the movie. Gigglers during the "why we fight" scene in "5 Graves to Cairo" were savagely hushed at the NY Film Forum.