“Combat Shock,” Buddy Giovinazzo (1984)

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One of the bleakest, most despairing films I’ve ever seen, Buddy Giovanazzo’s “Combat Shock” has been re-released by Troma in a generous two-disc set that includes both the edited 1986 release version and Giovanazzo’s original 1984 cut — which was not titled “American Nightmares” for nothing. Probably the best film ever made on Staten Island, it’s another reminder of how wide open and audacious the exploitation field was in the 70s and 80s.

My review (here) also contains a major blunder on my part — an erroneous assertion that Stanley Kubrick shot parts of “Fear and Desire” in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The combat sequences were in fact shot in the San Gabriel Mountains, something I should have checked out instead of relying on my doddering film buff memory (Kubrick did use Prospect Park as the setting for some of his youthful photographic experiments). Sincere apologies to all.

On a more cheerful note, our friends from the National Film Preservation Foundation have wrapped up their repatriation project with the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, and they’ve posted a few of their finds on their website, where they are available as streaming video and as downloadable MPG files. There’s some lovely footage, including a one-reel western, “The Prospector,” made in 1912 by Essanay and a 1920 Mutt and Jeff cartoon in which the two characters, discovering how deeply they’re being exploited by management, go on strike against their creator, Budd Fisher (who appears in live action footage). That’s pretty audacious stuff, too, given the red scare then raging in the wake of the Russian Revolution.

145 comments to “Combat Shock,” Buddy Giovinazzo (1984)

  • Shawn Stone

    At the local art house, someone threw a full soda at the screen and left after the incest in SPANKING THE MONKEY. Back when RED DAWN was in its opening weekend, I was at a western NY (rural area) screening where the crowd cheered loudly (went nuts) for the Wolverines as they defeated the Mighty Nicaraguan Army.

  • Brian Dauth

    Stephen: I agree with you that the solitary viewing of films is a perfectly valid aesthetic choice, but I also believe that solitary home viewing allows for films to become interactive in a way that public viewings do not (I also do not think that “interactive” is synonymous with “social” as I use it).

    At public screenings, all a spectator can do is stay or leave. At home, a viewer can rewind, go frame-by-frame, pause, and employ other manipulations that (to adopt John M.’s fine term) give a sense of “ownership” that public viewings preclude. This sense of ownership changes the power dynamic between viewer and movie in significant ways. In the future, will films deemed “beautiful” when watched on a frame-by-frame basis be considered greater works than those which are not “beautiful” when viewed this way? What happens to the notion of “motion” pictures? Also, if maintaining the proper aspect ratio is crucial when viewing a film, could it not also be argued that watching a film at the correct speed, size, and without pause is just as vital and should not be tampered with any more than a movie’s aspect ratio should be?

    Also, as John M. and Barry point out, the information gathered from alternate audience responses during a screening can be helpful in understanding the full impact a movie possesses. As I said at the beginning, to commune in private with an art object is a valid aesthetic choice. With film, the question arises as to what original intentions can be disregarded and which must be adhered to.

  • alex hicks

    There’s a charming clip from “Me & Orson Welles” at ; and there’s what looks like the whole of Boorman’s “A Tiger’s Tail” for a pittance at .

  • Blake Lucas

    Let’s get on the same page for just a moment. Regardless of preferences as to viewing conditions, I am sure anyone here would take any opportunity to see a film they wanted to see, and make the most of it.

    Viewing with audiences varies widely, and I mostly am in sympathy with those who don’t like to watch movies in large, noisy crowds. I do think theatrical viewing is the ideal, as I’ve said before, but I don’t care so much about the crowd as that it is a theatre (screen size, the dark) as I believe classic films especially were created with these viewing conditions in mind.

    What Barry said is something I can relate to. I stood in line in the middle of the night for an hour opening STAR WARS weekend (with a group and that probably explains that act of madness, though I had liked the director’s previous film very much). Of course, it was a full audience for the film, and they couldn’t have loved it more. To me it just loud, noisy, empty and I felt completely alienated. Such a bad experience that I’ve never been able to get myself to one STAR WARS sequel.

    What Jaime said about THE SEARCHERS a few posts back resonated a lot, partly because of the UCLA class screening I mentioned, an awful experience I wish I had not endured just for one more viewing of a film I’d already seen a number of times and many more since. But backing up for a minute, the first time I saw it was in revival triple theatre house in San Francisco in the 60s, with only a few other people in the audience, who were quiet. A small theatre–it was all it needed to be, and couldn’t complain in the least about that as a first viewing. At the UCLA class screening, derision of old Hollywood films, especially if they threatened anyone’s ideological comfort zone, was the order of the day, at least in the 70s. A guy a few seats away was constantly laughing at everything that happened. When Scar first appeared, he exclaimed “Fresh paint!”

    I know my own views of anything I see in a film, even as they may deepen and evolve over time on return viewings. I’m not really bothered by such attitudes but they are distracting. But as it happens, the most recent time I saw this same film was my introduction to Blu-Ray. A friend wanted to show off his big screen, hi def TV and Blu Ray and showed this. Needless to say, this home viewing experience with three others who also cherish the film was a completely different one than the UCLA one, which had been the old Technicolor studio print, getting a little battered at that point because of wasted screenings like that one. The Blu Ray one was better, and closer to that first S.F. viewing too.

  • Very interesting ideas, gentlemen, thank you.

    Brian: Your idea of “ownership” is important … fascinating to think how it really didn’t exist until the most recent generation of filmgoers, and how much it has changed. Certainly it’s possible to ruin a filmgoing eexperience for yourself at home by checking e-mails or taking phone calls, etc., and I can’t say I’m not guilty of that. But it’s a trade-off, too — I mean, how is being able to take a leak without missing 3 minutes of a movie not a good thing? I often revisit Danny Peary’s A GUIDE FOR THE FILM FANATIC, one of my favorite pieces of capsule-size criticism, and his writing — some of the last based entirely on theatrical screening notes & memories — always reminds me of the quiet revolution in film writing now that critics & scholars can study films with the tools of pause & rewind. Perhaps not an entirely positive development (and is Peary’s work to be discounted because he missed some things that nobody with a DVD player would get wrong today?), but more good than bad.

    Sad but true — I realize, thinking about it, that I probably would never have become a movie buff if the element of “control” as Brian defines it were not available to me.

    Barry: The effect you describe of taking an audience’s pulse is true, of course, but to me it’s part of the external info surrounding a movie — like reading the reviews or looking up the box office stats — rather than part of the aesthetic experience. And, as with the reviews and the returns, often I’d rather NOT have that input, at least not before the movie is over.

    I do concede that some films (mainly comedies) can work better with an audience, and that I’m not immune to that effect. Seeing INDEPENDENCE DAY with an opening-weekend audience, I came away with the impression that it was pretty good, which is apparently not the case. But I think the reverse effect can be true also: I saw THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT alone in the middle of the night and it scared the hell out of me, but everyone I talked to who watched the film in a theatre said that the presence of the audience defused the tension and compelled an ironic/superior response.

  • Brian Dauth

    Blake: I guess where I stumble is that I have never felt any sense of alientation when I did not like a film in the same way that much/most of the rest of an audience did (being queer might give me an advantage here since I was liking things in alternative ways since about the age of 5 and never allowed being different to bother me all that much). People do want to avoid situations where they feel alienated, but feeling alienated when an audience has an aesthetic reaction other then your own is more a function of an individual’s personal psychology than anything else.

    Also, it is nice to watch a movie among only those who love it, but as Barry pointed out, solipsism is always a danger when the like-minded gather in an atmosphere of sacred shush.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Watching movies in the peace of your own home is great, but it sets up the unrealistic expectation that you can “own” every film experience–the beauty of seeing a movie in a packed house is that people react to things differently.”

    But why is this an unrealistic expectation? And why should other people’s reactions be more interesting than your own? I have no problem accepting that viewing a film with an audience would be useful if your interest in cinema was primarily sociological. But if you’re interested in cinema as an art form, audiences are more likely to be an obstacle than anything else. If you see a film with an audience, you’re either aware of the audience, in which case you are surely that much less aware of the film, or you’re not, and might as well be seeing the film alone.

    I can trace my cinephilia back to the moment when my family first acquired a VCR in 1980. (I was 13 years old at the time.) Suddenly, a film became more like a book: not an experience that passed in front of you and then vanished, but an object that could be placed on a shelf and taken down again. It completely changed the way I related to films.

  • John M

    Brad, I guess I feel strongly that things can be learned from the strangers around you. To take an example, when we were young, who didn’t “learn” a joke–and consequently, learn a little bit about how to make others laugh–by hearing the laughter of others? Speaking for myself, it certainly helped me “get” things better. With the more reassuring permanence of a DVD, I guess one can assert control and simply play it back–which is fine, but it’s a different way of learning.

    Another point: we’re probably all in agreement that film is a living art, and, to be brass-tacks about it, once the public decides that it’s better to avoid crowds and tickets and the viewing tics of others, then film culture as we know it will essentially die. It will become a museum activity, embalmed and packaged with lots of special extras. You’ll have to get even cozier with that DVD player, because fewer and fewer new films will be made, except the truly gigantic ones.

    Ironically, the films discussed most fervently on this website–those of the ’30s and ’40s–were made before “home viewing” really existed as a concept. They were made with a communal viewing experience in mind. Watching a film on DVD is wonderful–it’s concrete, you can repeat it at no cost, and you control how distracted you want to be. Heck, I watch DVDs all the time–but, and this may sound weird, I always feel a little dishonest when I do it. Like I’m somehow betraying what’s essential about movies to begin with.

  • jean-pierre coursodon

    I agree with Brad’s interesting point that if you’re “aware of the audience” you’re less aware of the film itself, a good reason for avoiding audiences, especially when you know how obnoxious they can be.

    Brad’s also points out that his cinephilia started with the DVD at a very young age. A very different experience from mine and people of my generation — until I was well into my forties the only way to see a film was to go to a movie theater, and therefore movie watching (which was also “moviegoing” — a physical act like going to the opera or a football game) couldn’t be separated from being part of an audience. Even watching a 16mm print in Bill Everson’s living-room was still a way of “going to the movies.”
    Still I must say I don’t really miss going to the movies, and I haven’t been in a movie theater in the past three years, and had been going less and less since the late nineties. I don’t miss it anymore than I miss my old typewriter, or the days when I wrote my articles in longhand. Yes, the experience of watching movies has changed drastically — mostly for the better, although one can always wax nostalgic about the flea pits where us old foggies spent so many thrilling hours when we were young, eager cinephiles.

  • John M

    I can’t say I understand this argument regarding an “awareness of the audience.” Is this the same as the “awareness of the roast in the oven” or “awareness of incoming phone calls” when watching a DVD at home? Or is this different? Seeing the audience primarily as an obstacle? Are we really so meek, so easily pestered?

    I’ll second Brian’s point:

    “People do want to avoid situations where they feel alienated, but feeling alienated when an audience has an aesthetic reaction other then your own is more a function of an individual’s personal psychology than anything else.”

  • Barry Putterman

    While I have already said that I am most comfortable with a one-on-one relationship with a film, I am finding an absolutist nature to that viewpoint here that keeps driving me to counter arguments.

    For instance, a film is not like a book. Cinema is a performance art and literature is not. As things currently stand, you could make the case for film being like music with the movie theater being the rough equivalent to the concert and the DVD to the CD. But understanding that a performance is for an audience does not mean that your interest in film is primarily sociological or that you are more concerned with someone else’s viewpoint than your own.

    Maybe this strange notion that anybody can own a film is what is causing all of this nervousness about all of those distracting other people. None of us own a film. All we own is our own experiences of films. And there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies. (That last is not an exact quote because I don’t want to get sued by the Shakespeare estate.)

  • Michael Dempsey

    Thank you, Junko, for clarifying the meaning of “Wife, Be Like A Rose!”

    Let’s hope the internet option Brad cites can make it and its many fine companions more readily available. It’s a disgrace that the works of a distinctive artist like Mikio Naruse (and so many others)remain so hidden in the allegedly fabulous online era.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Junko, I guess this yakuza did not like what he saw on the screen. Was it similar to Fukasaku’s send-up of cutting off the little finger as punishment treated reverently in traditional yakuza-eiga films starring Takakura Ken?

  • Tom Brueggemann

    There’s a like apocryphal story of an early 1970s screening of Duck Soup at Anthology Film Archives where someone made the mistake of laughing and found himself facing the wrath of the entire audience…

    I also remember hearing that they at an early location had something separating adjacent seats at head level on each side to keep contact between viewers.

    Any old-time NYers have any reaction to this?

    (I can’t cite the source of the Duck Soup story – it could have been in jest, reacting to the seriousness of its audience, but I clearly remember reading it way back when).

  • Blake Lucas

    “People do want to avoid situations where they feel alienated, but feeling alienated when an audience has an aesthetic reaction other then your own is more a function of an individual’s personal psychology than anything else.”

    No argument. It’s just one real response one can have in a communal moviewatching experience. Shared laughter or (evident) shared emotion is another. Everyone quietly relating to the film in their own way is another. One can feel alone in watching a film in a theatre or at home, not unhappily in either case. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching movies with others, I’m sure I’ve done most of my moviewatching on my own, whether it was going to a theatre where I experienced it with people I didn’t know or watching it at home. I’ve laughed out loud at home watching a movie all by myself very readily. No one needs others to tell us if we think something is funny.

  • One alternative for social viewing (outside the theatrical context) — is to have (find) a family (and friends) willing to watch at least some of the “unusual” films you like. This really can add to the enjoyment of movies.

    When my wife and I went to Japan earlier this year, I failed to do my research as to what was then in the theaters. The only title I saw on a theater marquee that I could vaguely recall was “Shonen merikensack” — and I didn’t remember anything much. Now, having seen the (unusubbed) DVD, we wish we had gone.

    As to Naruse — I should finish my quest to see all his surviving films (except for 2 incomplete war-time films that haven’t been screened for 60 or so years) this week or next. ;~}

  • Barry Putterman

    Anthology Film Archives which, in its earlier days was almost exclusively devoted to Avant Garde cinema, always had a more singular attitude towards the group audience. Basically, they didn’t even believe in subtitled prints. P. Adams Sitney once told me; “If you are going to bleach out the bottom of the frame, you might as well bleach out the entire frame.”

    Of course, Sitney was full of fun. He also once said that narrative films were about as interesting to him as industrial films are. Then, one rainy Sunday afternoon, I was in Theatre 80 seeing a Vivien Leigh double bill, and in walked P. Adams Sitney accompanied by two children. I told him that I was surprised to see him in this venue and he replied; “The Mets were rained out. This was the only doubleheader in town.” I can forgive anybody who is capable of a line like that.

  • Peter Henne

    “If you see a film with an audience, you’re either aware of the audience, in which case you are surely that much less aware of the film, or you’re not, and might as well be seeing the film alone.”

    I’m doubtful toward this claim. We do all sorts of perceptual multitasking in our regular lives. Another person’s reaction to an event I’m witnessing can aid my understanding, as well as hinder it.

    I wonder if we’re missing something obvious in this thread, those wonderful times when watching something great that we silently share with the audience. Who hasn’t felt a tremendous recognition running through the whole auditorium a couple of times in their moviegoing life? Though conversation doesn’t take place then and there, and shouldn’t since the film is continuing, I think it’s fair to say we’re looking forward to exchanging glances with the other patrons when we leave the theatre–those glances can say a lot. If you bring a friend, all the better. Ninety-nine per cent of the films I’ve seen in theatres have been on my own but I’m glad I saw them with fellow human beings in the room, even the ones who annoyed the hell out of me, and that communal experience does make a difference in how I understood the films: for they were submitted to a test with the public, like an engineer making a stress test on materials after designing acording to the math. I don’t think you can so neatly separate sociology and aesthetics the way Brad proposed.

  • Joseph McBride

    Thanks, Barry. Though I now live in Berkeley, where we are fortunate to have the Pacific Film Archive, going to the LA County Museum of Art for films is one of the things I most miss about LA. They still do have the UCLA Film and Television Archive screening series. And maybe the groundswell of support for the LACMA film series will bring the museum back to its senses before it makes this self-inflicted wound to its reputation permanent.

  • Alex Hicks

    Well, Tom, laughter certainly was not inhibited at 1960s screening of “Duck Soup” at the Bleecker Street Cinema, New Yorker and Thalia, repertory cinemas par excellence of the Golden era of les cinemas de qualite, New Wave, and Classical Hollywood.

    The 1970s sobriety might be less scholarly Seriousness than nascent political correctness.

  • Blake Lucas

    I’ve got to back up Peter on his eloquent 1:15 post and will actually offer what I think is a good example that he will support, because he and were both there for it, and remarked afterward how glad we were we carved out that time. That was OUT 1 (the complete film, shown over two days) at UCLA Film Archive–early last year unless I’m a year off which is possible. The audience was banded together in endurance as well as caring about and responding to the movie. Friends could at least talk and share a few reactions in the breaks between each part (they range between an hour and an hour a half). It was a great communal moviegoing experience, long enough that I got to have some interesting conversation with at least one person I didn’t even know, but I don’t think that aspect in any way interfered with anyone’s personal experience of the film, the acuity of their responses and own understanding of it.

  • Brian Dauth

    First, thanks to Peter for another great contribution to this thread. This post was going to contain thoughts similar to his, but I will spare Dave K. the bandwidth and everyone the bother.

    But one notion has been rolling around in my mind regarding this issue. One way of understanding this division is between people who understand film as belonging to the discipline of the performing arts and those who understand it as part of the fine arts tradition. To my mind, film (being the fabulous mongrel that it is) belongs in both camps. But looked at historically, I think there is a trend to edge movies out of the performing arts and into the fine arts. Part of the impetus seems to come from wanting to clearly and decisively sever film from any and all association with theatre. The more irrelevant the issue of “audience” can be made, the less concern there is with issues of performance.

    Also, over the past 100 years watching a film has gone from an evanescent experience that may never be repeated to one where repeated viewings of particular films become possible with the advent of television broadcasts, revival houses, and film society screenings to the present circumstances where a select number of films can be plucked off the shelf or downloaded and watched at a person’s leisure. Films made with the understanding that they would be shown publically before large crowds can now be watched in private, and we are now at the point where a filmmaker can deem the private screening as the preferred way she would like her movie to be encountered. Film going has been transformed into film owning with all of the attendant consequences.

    The end result is that the power dynamic between artist and spectator has shifted. The spectator is now able to dispense with the audience that the artist once thought was part of the aesthetic experience, an awareness that it seems from all available evidence did play a role in directors’ thinking and practice when making films.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘I guess this yakuza did not like what he saw on the screen. Was it similar to Fukasaku’s send-up of cutting off the little finger as punishment treated reverently in traditional yakuza-eiga films starring Takakura Ken?’

    It was objection to the whole movie, because it was accusing yakuza about tax fraud. Same week Goto yakuza gang attacked director Itami Juzo, seriously injured.

    Itami was finally murdered, made to look like suicide. His brother in law Oe Kenzaburo has written book to prove it. Oe is famous Japanese author and won Nobel Prize. I am saying that so people will not dismiss as ‘conspiracy theory’ from crazy author.

  • Brad Stevens

    Blake – You may be interested to know that the latest issue of VIDEO WATCHDOG contains an article I wrote about a fan-subtitled transfer of OUT 1 which can be downloaded from various P2P sites. Was the UCLA screening subtitled? I’ve heard stories about some strange kind of simultaneous subtitling – which apparently involved volunteers frantically typing out translations of the dialogue during the actual screening – accompanying recent appearances of this film.

    Jean-Pierre wrote: “Brad also points out that his cinephilia started with the DVD at a very young age.”

    I wish I was that young! I started out with VHS tapes.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Brad – I’d heard the “no subtitles” policy as well from the same source of information – thanks for reminding me of that.

    As for inviting friends over to share viewing – I have done this, but in a couple of cases it has nearly cost me friendships. Two years ago I was watching a screener of No Country for Old Men (and keep in mind, I am no Coen fan) – told my friends this was a likely big awards contender, a lot of people think it is really good – then the two friends started talking between themselves, laughing a couple of times, one went into the kitchen to use the blender loudly – I went to pause and asked nicely if they could be quietly, and got a very stony response.

    One of the two friends is a filmmaker, NYU film school grad and has taught film production. He told me one of the things he likes about seeing movies at home is that there shouldn’t be rules about talking during them.

  • Blake Lucas

    Thanks, Brad. Yes, OUT 1 was subtitled, and seemed to have been done properly and conventionally (unless my memory is playing tricks on me) If Peter has any other memory of it, I’m sure he will say so. I thought it had played this way at a number of venues.

    I am assuming someone has an interest in getting this subtitled version out on DVD at some point. It’s a magisterial film and arguably a key work in the history of film, especially modern cinema.

    And interestingly, Brian, like so many great films, it is intensely aware of and respectful of the older art form of theatre.

  • Peter Henne

    In such a hurry today… thank you Brian and Blake. Brad, my recollection is that OUT 1 was subtitled with preset electronic titles. I believe a translator sat in the projection booth and pressed an Enter key at the moment she or he determined the next spoken line needed a subtitle. My perception was that this system worked pretty well, allowing that sometimes the subtitle appeared a little later or earlier than I would expect. I’d be glad to hear if anyone else can fill in information. It’s great to hear that a subtitled file of OUT 1 is out there on the web-a dream come true. I hope the picture quality is good and will look for your article.

  • Tony Wiliams

    Junko, A yakuza complaining about a film accusing them of tax fraud? I thought that was the least harmless of their activities from my knowledge of Fukasaku and Miike films.

    Do they now want to be regarded as legitimate businessmen?

  • Brad Stevens

    “Junko, A yakuza complaining about a film accusing them of tax fraud? I thought that was the least harmless of their activities from my knowledge of Fukasaku and Miike films. Do they now want to be regarded as legitimate businessmen?”

    I think Junko may be misremembering here. My recollection is that MARUSA NO ONNA was the Iatmi film about tax fraud (but not in connection with the yakuza), whereas Itami’s MINBO NO ONNA was the film that contained a negative portrayal of the yakuza (but didn’t accuse them of tax fraud).

  • I was awfully upset some years ago by the alleged news of Itami Juzo’s “suicide”, when it happened. I am so relieved to hear that he was really murdered!

    My whole family loved Itami’s A TAXING WOMAN films, and THE FUNERAL.

  • Blake Lucas

    Thanks for jarring my memory about the OUT 1 subtitling, Peter. Yes, I remember now that’s how it was done, and did go very well. I guess after so many hours of the film, it began to feel so normal that’s why I remembered it as conventional.

    Still hoping Criterion or some venturesome outfit will give it the release it deserves. I’ll always treasure that theatrical experience but do want to see it again, and, as with BERLIN ALEXANDERPLATZ, which I last watched one episode an evening, breaking it up over a long period of time might allow one to absorb the nuances better.

  • Junko Yasutani

    ‘My recollection is that MARUSA NO ONNA was the Iatmi film about tax fraud (but not in connection with the yakuza), whereas Itami’s MINBO NO ONNA was the film that contained a negative portrayal of the yakuza (but didn’t accuse them of tax fraud).’

    Yes, that is right Brad. I was thinking of tax fraud because Tokyo prosecutor brought the charge against the Gotogumi at that time. There was article in Akahata, JCP newspaper, about yakuza fraud, attack on Itami and extortion from movie theater from same period.

    Yes, Tony, yakuza does worse thing than tax fraud, but this is easiest crime to get conviction against, that is why yakuza does not want to be accused of tax fraud.

  • Has anyone ventured yet that sometimes, the worst (but, alas, maybe only) place to see a difficult/rare film is at a Film Festival? Example: Philippe Grandrieux’s A LAKE is hands-down the best film of the year for me. I have seen it in Festivals at Las Palmas and Jeonju – and, especially at the latter (as several friends who were there can also attest), predominantly young crowds sit in rapt silence and cheer at the end of everything – even at the end of a Straub-Huillet double-bill!! But I just could not make myself see A LAKE again in my hometown Melbourne Film Festival two weeks ago: because (as I predicted, and later heard was so) people talked, grouched, walked out in droves, made a big noise about leaving … the twist here is that A LAKE (like all Grandrieux’s features) is literally near-unwatchable on DVD: ‘more darkness!”, as Goethe did not quite say on his deathbed.

  • Jonathan Rosenbaum

    Tom, your story about DUCK SOUP, apocryphal or not (and I suspect that it is), reminds me that Jacques Tati once did a wonderful re-enactment for me of the behavior of a Hollywood executive at a private screening of PLAYTIME at which he (the executive) had to bring along his little girl because he couldn’t find a babysitter. Every time his daughter would laugh or giggle at something in the film, the executive would turn around, livid, and violently shush her! (And Tati, of course, played both parts.)

  • John M

    I saw something not too long ago at Anthology, and I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Anyway, there was a bit of clearly intentional humor going on up on the screen, and an old man in the back row laughed. He was loudly shushed by another old man, and I’ll never forget his very loud reply:

    “FUCK. YOU.”

    I’m not so sure that Duck Soup story’s apocryphal!

  • david hare

    Im completely addicted to watching films at home, either on a 50 Plas or in a deciacted comfort zone upstairs with a wonderful projector and 130 inch diameter screen. And the older I get the less I want to share the experience with people I don’t know.
    We so rarely go out to movies now – literally the last two were a reprise screening of Desplechin’s Conte de Noel at the gorgeous old Cinema Pantheon in Paris last year and, earlier this year a preview of Milk. The Paris screening was wonderful and enjoyable because of, not despite the fact there were only a handful of people in the audience, and the projection was impeccabble (I later discovered it was a digital print.) THe Milk was unendurable – the audience while sympathetic were far too hip and were laughing at things I found moving (like Josh Brolin’s performance as Dan White which is very much at the centre of what the movie seeks to open out) and the projection! Jesus! – a 35mm print was totally substandard, looked like it had been dragged across a concrete floor, then it went and stayed out of focus after the first reel and the entire screening somehow masked and overcropped the top of the frame on what is surely standard 1.85 ruining all the wide shots in City Hall for instance.

    DVD and now Blu has enabled me to actually “Own” my own copies of movies in a way I would never have thought possible thirty plus years ago when we were renting and programming and writing Film Society programs and oftentimes screening 16mm at home and wishing we could afford to buy all these 16 prints. HOw many people indeed have done just this here. IMO throwing a BluRay image up onto the 130 inch screen I have concocted from goo and paint in a batcaved room upstairs at home is as good as that ever was, and it’s an experience we’ve easily shared with a people. I guess Ive always put myself into layers of hock over the decades since home vid just to arrive at this very state of affairs. It’s one of the few consolations of getting older, if broker. I would be happy – with rare exceptions -to never set foot inside a commercial cinema again.

  • Tony Wiliams

    I remember one Screen weekend evening organized in England the early 80s A SERIOUS LOOK AT COMEDY during which anybody who laughed was thrown out.

  • Barry Putterman

    Well Tony, they did warn you that it was a SERIOUS look.

    Why is the new page up already? Has Dave’s review been shifted to the Saturday paper? Do I have to now start buying that skimpy thing?

  • Tony Wiliams

    I didn’t go since I wanted a laugh and the last place for that was something organized by Screen.

  • Brian Dauth

    David: I just watched MILK last night (yes, at home, on dvd, on my television, LOL). The audiences I saw it with in the theatre were respectful, and the movie seemed to have an impact on them.

    I love the way Van Sant has some people play their younger selves, breaking down the barrier between fiction and non-fiction. There is also some wonderful pans from a filmed scene to documentary footage. Lastly, Van Sant has a way of capturing the various nuances of interactions between men that is amazing.

  • Joseph McBride

    My friend Mark Jacobson, now a noted magazine writer, once attended a screening of DUCK SOUP at MOMA. He became so hysterical with laughter that he fell on the floor and had to be helped out into the lobby. Just as he was starting to calm down, the elevator doors opened, and Groucho came out. Mark became hysterical all over again. Groucho looked at him very quizzically.

  • david hare

    Brian the preview audience for Milk was also fine and sympatico but the movie took me and Ken somewhere far too personal to share that day.
    You’r right about the incredibly canny casting of the leads. I don’t know how tall Emile Hirsh is but I virtually stopped breathing when he first came on as Cleve Jones. Cleve was someone I got to know well during his early AIDS intervention trip (plus beach and beer break) to Sydney in summer 83/84. I kept seeing Cleve in Emile, and vice versa and later, watching the Making of on the BLuRay Cleve is there, now around my age and looking younger – goddam him. And almost unrecognizeable. But for the wicked twinkle in the eye.

    Yes I very much like the way Gus weaves a newer generation into the acting out and performance of this grand tragedy in retelling the history. These are such seemingly simple things but impossibly hard to do successfully and he’s done it with great distinction.

  • Alex Hicks

    OUT 1 fans,
    Anyone know if Michèle Morettin of OUT 1 glory is related to syblings Nanni and Franco Moretti?

  • Brian Dauth

    David: I know exactly what you mean. I had to watch the film several times to make sure that the deep impact it had on me was as much rooted in Van Sant’s artistry as my intense response to the material. And the first scene between Cleve and Harvey is key for me as well: Van Sant captures both the surface and deep truths of that moment and such encounters (I have been lucky tolive long enough to have experienced both sides).

  • Robin Coolidge

    I make a conscious choice about watching current movies in a theater or at home. Of course blockbusters and period pieces seem best to see on a large screen just because of the detail that can be viewed. Smaller films or more intimate subjects are fine to be viewed on DVD.
    However, if possible, I love to view classic movies in a theater. I’ve seen “To Kill a Mockingbird” so often I can quote it at great length, but my most memorable experience was seeing it at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. The theater was packed with viewers aged 8 to 80 and I teared up as the film started because I was so glad to be there and watching this great film as it was meant to be viewed. I’ve seen many other classic films in arthouses but never was affected like that before.