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A Shared Group Experience That Wasn't

Last night, we went out to see "The American", the new film from Anton Corbijn, starring George Clooney. I was excited to go see it, having been a big fan of his photography for decades (yes, seriously), and his iconic video work for Depeche Mode. I'd really enjoyed his first full length film, Control, based on the tragically short life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis.

The film opened with a gorgeous snowy landscape, in Sweden, and immediately conjured up Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" in my head. We were drawn in to the dangerous day-to-day life of Jack, a weapons expert and assassin by trade. Having seen the trailer, and being well-versed in Corbijn's work, I knew this wouldn't be some run-of-the-mill "assassin pulls one last job" movie.

As the movie progresses, you see it's really more of a statement regarding figuring out what gives your life meaning. Having an exciting job with lots of money isn't it. All you really have in life are your relationships with other people. The rest is filler, not what's important. Jack comes to this realization by the end of the film. But as the film ends, you fear he figured this out a tiny bit too late. And that after executing all the elements of his plan perfectly throughout the film, when he most needed perfection, he fucked up. The final scene leaves you with a jack who is angry. Angry at himself for messing up. Angry for not realizing what mattered sooner. Finally, the assassin's mask is lifted and he shows this final emotion.

Corbijn fades out to the trees in the Tuscan countryside, leaving you, the viewer, to decide how this film ultimately ends. Personally, I love ambuguity in films, especially in the endings. (I loved that about Inception, for instance, and know that was the element most likely to vex many of the folks I know who saw it.)

As the screen faded to black, I'd started to tear up a ittle. I'd really enjoyed the film. And at that point, a group of 6 or so people sitting near me, started hissing.

That's right. They hated the movie. But they decided that was not enough of a statement. And thus, I had to listen to these self-appointed arbiters of culture complain loudly about how "this was a terrible movie." The "worst movie I've ever seen."


I know we all have our own expreience of films, and pieces of music, and books, and of art. But, frankly, the last time i saw this kind of righteous indignation was when I saw Lost Highway. Someone walked out of that midway through, possibly during the S&M scene with Marilyn Manson's "Apple of Sodom" playing. It didn't surprise me during that film because quite honestly, I love David Lynch but I have seen numerous people lose it while watching his movies in the theater.

But I was shocked at all the noise these folks felt compelled to make on their way out of the theater, thus imposing their opinions over the experience of the rest of us -- the majority of the audience -- who'd sat there wanting to soak up the ending of the movie as the credits played out. To be fair, they weren't the only people who hadn't liked the film. A couple in front of us had stalked out of the theater after a scene with Clooney and a lady of the evening.

After a few minutes of their hubbub I really couldn't listen to more of it. And thus I said in a stage whisper to my SO, "I guess they were expecting a Hollywood action film where the guy gets the girl and they all live happily ever after." Happily, their obnoxious commentary stopped after that, as they packed up and left.

I'm not proud of stooping to their level, mind you. But I couldn't stand another minute of listening to their boorish commentary. Save it for your post-movie dinner chat with your friends. The strangers in the audience with you are not interested in your opinion. Really. We're not.

I wonder what had compelled these folks to trek out to the Sundance Kabuki (that's right, they're affiliated with that Sundance, the one that puts on the independent film festival) and pay a premium to watch this film. All I can think of is one of the ladies in the group was a big George Clooney fan and convinced everyone to go along with it.

 I'll never know what their issue was with the film that caused them to raise their voices to ensure everyone in the audience could hear how much they hated it. But it was a good reminder that these shared experiences we have in a large group of people...they're not the same experience for all of us, even though we all take part. And hopefully next time I encounter folks acting in this manner, I'll be able to just shush them.