In Praise of 2001 Acid Freakouts (and Other Disruptions that Make Moviegoing Memorable)
And you thought ringing cell phones were annoying. At a recent screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey, an audience member on LSD lost control and started flailing his arms and yelling during the film's Star Child sequence. How he kept his cool through Hal's revolt and the trippy Star Gate sequence is anyone's guess. Thanks to mobile phone cameras, the freak out is now making the Internet rounds and even though his ramblings are mostly incoherent, the video is quite a spectacle. It also made me think about those rare instances where audience disruption can actually enhance moviegoing.
Usually, even the most muted conversations during a movie infuriate me. But every now and then, the right disruption during the right movie can really bring out the pleasures of seeing a movie in a communal setting. During horror movies when audience members frantically chastise a character, I'm reminded how film immerses people on even the most visceral level. And there have definitely been a few times where well-timed audience one-liners salvaged otherwise worthless movies. In fact, part of the magic of seeing a movie with a huge group of strangers is that you never know how people will react.
I once saw a screening of Paul Morrisey's Blood For Dracula where an audience member was either on drugs or blackout drunk. He made noises through most of the movie that only occasionally sounded like words, and never coherent ones.
Finally, during Roman Polanski's cameo, the guy erupted with excitement and yelled "Polanski!" It was about then that the theater manager finally showed up to escort him out. The guy rambled about Polanski and mentioned Knife in the Water as if this somehow explained his behavior. When the manager said he hadn't seen Knife in the Water the guy exploded, "What? That sh*t is classic! Come on! We're going to my house right now to watch it!" We had all been united in opposition before, but I don't think the entire audience laughed so hard together at any other point during the film.
So, while I empathize with Todd McCarthy's lament that his children will remember the disruption more than the film itself, and agree that the situation wasn't handled well, part of me wonders if the audience at the Egyptian has a whole new level of appreciation for the power of Kubrick's images after witnessing their effect on the guy in the video below.
· A Bummer Trip for "2001" At The Egyptian [Indiewire/Deep Focus]