ONLY ON THE BIG SCREEN
EW’S readers are a sharp, intelligent bunch. They were asked to come up with a list of films that they feel should ONLY be seen in a cinema.
To my mind the theatrical experience is incomparable. You could have an enviable, expensive set up at home with all the bells and whistles. But it would never even approximate that excitement you feel as the lights go down, watching the screen up in your balcony seat.
I’ll talk about some of the best experiences I’ve ever had at the movies. They are so vivid that they’ll always be with me.
When I was 19 (back in the 90s) I saw my favourite film of all time at the cinema. I had always been an enormous GONE WITH THE WIND fan. I had read Margaret Mitchell’s novel three times by the time I was 14. That has to be my favourite book ever. Of all the characters there ever were in modern literature, SCARLETT O’HARA’S personality is the closest to mine.
Except I would never have let Ashley jerk me around like that. When he wanted to marry Melanie I would’ve said, “Have her,” and I never would’ve spoken to him again. Maybe if he got divorced. But otherwise that would’ve been the end for me.
But the rest of it I recognized completely. Scarlett’s fiery nature, her stubbornness, her ambition, her independence, her wild flirtatiousness and her need to make something of herself were qualities I understood. All too well.
By the time I was old enough to appreciate this grand exquisite film it had all ready been on television for the last 20 years. I had always avoided watching it because I was determined to see it on a big screen. When I finally went, it didn’t live up to my expectations.
IT SURPASSED THEM.
To see the beautiful VIVIEN LEIGH portray SCARLETT and watch her life unfold in glorious technicolour in front of me was almost more than I could bear. Though I knew it was coming, when she followed CLARK GABLE to the door, plaintively asking, “Where should I go? What should I do?” and he answered, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” it gave me chills.
When I left I felt like my feet didn’t touch the floor for days. I was utterly enraptured. For weeks after, I felt like the world was a different place. Colours were more intense. Food tasted better. Everything seemed serene and lovely, like a dream. I still couldn’t get that movie out of my mind.
I never saw GONE WITH THE WIND in a theatre again. But I’m sure I will one day.
That was a motion picture that I viewed that made me comprehend the power of film in a completely new way. I have never experienced anything like that before in my life – the longing for a great artistic experience that was totally and completely satisfying. The only thing that makes me sad is that I saw it at a single screen theatre that no longer exists.
I’ve had a handful of mesmerizing transcendent times since but they could never duplicate them effectively. In the early 90s my aunt fell in love with HOWARDS END. It soon became one of her favourite films of all time. She invited me to come with her one evening and I was just as entranced as she was. She continued to go and went with her on countless occasions.
For a period piece it was hot as hell (I could grasp the subtext even at that age) and I adored the great visual beauty and splendid literary quality that it possessed. Its astonishing loveliness was unmatchable.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD had a powerful effect on me. I saw it on a Friday night in January with one of my exes. It got to me on such a level that I saw it five Friday nights in a row – and continued on after that. It was such a work of brutal brilliant perfection and it was ever present in my thoughts for months.
As far as the list that EW readers submitted, I have also been to screenings of STAR WARS and I would kill to see DAYS OF HEAVEN, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in theatrical settings.
I’ve all ready told you about a few of the theatrical experiences I’ve had that blew me away. Now, ladies and gentlemen, you’ll have to tell me some of yours.
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