' ' Cinema Romantico: To Go or Not to Go

Thursday, March 22, 2018

To Go or Not to Go

In the summer of 2009 I went to a matinee of “Public Enemies” with a couple friends. Before the screening, we had gone to the BBQ place across the street and I’d consumed an early afternoon beer, which went along with the couple cups of coffee I’d had that morning and the typical couple glasses of water I like to have after my couple cups of coffee. And even if I used the theater’s restroom facilities prior to the movie, well, the movie was two and a half hours long, and midway through, I felt, you know, the urge. And it just kept getting worse. But, what was I going to do? LEAVE THE MOVIE AND GO TO THE BATHROOM? If that’s kooky talk under any circumstance, on par with taking out my smartphone and scrolling through it while the movie is happening, it is doubly kooky where Michael Mann is concerned. Any second of any Michael Mann movie, as we Michael Mann devotees can attest, is capable of sizzling your retinas. And that experience was nothing compared to later in the year when I went to see “Broken Embraces.” Whew, was that bathroom emergency bad. Whatever. I didn’t leave. I wouldn’t dream of it. “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” was, as you likely remember, five hours and thirty-two minutes long and I didn’t go to the bathroom. When I watched “The Heiress” for the first time, I was at home but still so transfixed that when I had to go to the bathroom I nevertheless literally refused to stop the DVR to walk down my own hallway to go. I do not go to the bathroom during movies.

I went to the bathroom during “The Hurricane Heist.” The situation wasn’t even as dire as “Public Enemies” or “Broken Embraces”, but as soon as I had to go, the need weeded its way into the back of my mind. “Hey. I have to go to the bathroom.” The sweet, awful irony was that sitting a few chairs down from me was an older woman who spent half the movie rifling through her bag and sucking on her soda cup as if trying to suck up someone’s soul and the other half of the movie getting up to go to the bathroom. Every time she got up to go, I’d think, “See? It’s easy. Just get up and go.” Then, midway through the movie, some dude came into the theater, using his smartphone as a flashlight to sit down almost directly behind me. He probably just snuck in after the movie he actually paid to see ended, which seemed to be confirmed when a couple minutes later a couple theater employees entered, scanned the crowd, and then left, but still. Anymore these days, with, shall we say, The State of Things, anytime someone enters a theater midway through the showing, I am simply conditioned to get nervous. And Jesus do I resent being conditioned to get nervous. But that’s a subject for another sermon. The point is, this dude took me out of a movie I was only halfway in to begin with, and so, I though “the hell with it.”

And I have to say, the act of leaving a movie in the middle of it with the express intent of simply dashing to the bathroom and then hustling back to the movie felt…weird. As a longtime glasses wearer, it felt like the few times I’ve been in the shower with my glasses on, where everything looks so weirdly clear that it looks completely different. Ineffably, the theater hallway, the theater bathroom, all of which I’ve been in hundreds of times, looked…different. After all, I wasn’t walking out on a movie. That’s a whole other feeling. Walking out on a movie is like turning off a game midway through because it’s a blowout; you have consciously stopped caring about the result. Leaving a movie to run to the bathroom, on the other hand, is like not being able to watch a game you really want to watch while it’s happening. And even if I didn’t really care what I was missing in “The Hurricane Heist”, especially since I left in the middle of some sludgy action scene, the sensation of being out of a movie I was watching was so foreign that it threw me for a loop. I was walking normal but I felt like I was staggering.

It felt so strange that I tried to remember the last time it happened. And in wracking my brain, I think, I swear, the last time prior to “The Hurricane Heist” I left a movie to go to the bathroom was…“The Phantom Menace.” (I don’t remember the precise moment I left. My guess would be around the time Pernilla August forced out the line “You can’t stop change any more than you can stop the sun from setting.”) Whatever that says about “The Phantom Menace”, the primary point here is that the last time I left a movie to go to the bathroom was the 90s! The last gasp of the Clinton Administration! “The Hurricane Heist” marks the first time I’ve left a movie to go to the bathroom since the turn of the century!

I know, I know, I could have just walked out. And while I, dutiful film blogger, was bound, as we both know, to finish “The Hurricane Heist” to write a true review to tell you, potential ticket buyer, to stay the hell away, in reality, I feel like saying I left to go to the bathroom says more than if I walked out. Walking out on a movie means that the movie has nonetheless stirred something up in me something so palpable that I am choosing to actively reject it. I will not give up on the movies like this movie has so clearly given up on itself. Leaving a movie to go to the bathroom, however, means the movie has given up and I have given up too. And since I had given up, I figured I might as well be comfortable.

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