Midnight shows are my favorite. For one thing, the films selected for this coveted time slot often cater to us film geeks. For another, the people who show up to watch movies in the middle of the night always make for an entertaining crowd.
I recently attended a midnight screening of “Raging Bull” (1980) at the magnificent Nighthawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I was the first to arrive and waited patiently for the parade of those awkward, lumpy film snobs I love so much. I assumed it would be them coming, because who else would go see Scorsese at midnight.
I think all “serious” lovers of cinema have a special place in their hearts for Martin Scorsese. For me, it’s because his films pulse with intensity and energy. In “Raging Bull” in particular, his actors explode and flip tables, and his screen is spattered with blood and sweat. I’ll take that over Antonioni’s ruminations on nothingness or Bergman’s quiet, brooding empty rooms. I understand that this is heresy, but here I must break from my film school brethren. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the auteurs who shaped modern cinema — I do! — it’s just that I can’t honestly say I enjoy sitting through many of their films. I dunno. I like when things happen in a movie. That’s just my preference.
I’m sure a lively debate could have been held on the subject that night at the Nitehawk. The auditorium was filled with the collective knowledge of countless hours of moviegoing experience, and some debates had already begun in the lobby queue.
Most of the nerds in attendance were in excited, chatty packs, but in the back row I was flanked by a few stragglers. To my left was the only other person, aside from myself, who had come alone. He was the tallest and fairest of all the attendees. I fell in love with him immediately. To my right was a poor dope who’d come with his decidedly un-geeky girlfriend. Clearly a Nitehawk novice, she placed her bag on the floor, nearly killing our waiter when he twice tripped over it. As the lights when down, I sank into my seat, sipping my whiskey, already full of feelings.
We hadn’t reached the midpoint of the first act before it became apparent that the girlfriend on the right had grown bored. She kept trying to chat with her date, but he would only shush her savagely. His rebukes didn’t stop her though. She had a lot to say. After the movie, he hustled her away, probably hoping to avoid any more peevish glares. I wondered if he was reevaluating his relationship, and whether they would have an awkward brunch the next morning. Can a lover of cinema ever get serious with a person who can’t sit through “Raging Bull”?
I pondered this question while the credits rolled, and stole some glances at the elven boy on my left. He did two things after the movie that sealed his place in my heart. First, he stayed seated through the credits. Second, he produced a flip phone from his pocket. A flip phone! My spirited brain extrapolated his whole persona. An entrenched Luddite. Not on Facebook. Writes letters on paper. (Swoon.)
Then my spine stiffened. Suppose he adores Ingmar Bergman? He’s just the type who would. What if “L’Avventura” is his favorite film? I sat through that “movie” (using the term is a stretch) once, last summer, and I wouldn’t endure the experience again. He’d think I’m a complete dunce, of course, and I’d have to allow him that, or I couldn’t say the same thing about that girl who was bored by Robert De Niro’s Jake La Motta. (And I don’t want to not say that.)
The last credit rolled. The boy stood up, stretched, and ambled out of the auditorium. Just as well. It’d never have worked between us. I sighed and searched my glass for a last drop of whiskey.
Next midnight I’ll have to see something more lowbrow. But not too low…