Less is more – musings from a queue
It certainly looks like it if you listen to the current banter in blogs and podcasts. And to be honest I’m not surprised. Sure, the plastic glasses are more comfortable than the paper ones, but apart from this, it was basically the same thing once again. Nothing has changed. 3D still can’t save a bad movie from being bad. But they can certainly make an already bad movie worse, adding blur and darkness.
With most film buffs I feel a bit smug watching this. “HA! See there! People still think for themselves! We’re as easily manipulated with marketing tricks as you thought!”
But deep down it also worries me a little. Times are confusing and we don’t know where we’re heading with all the digital distribution, downloading and home-cinemas. What will happen to the real thing, the theatres I love so much, in the long run? I dread for the day when they’re not around. Perhaps 3D could have saved them?
So people look around for new hopes, new ideas to give the cinemas a unique selling point, something you can’t get watching a downloaded copy of the movie at home. Is 4D the miracle we’re waiting for? Will gimmicks such as smell and water splashing in your face make you keener on going to the cinemas? I wouldn’t think so. I guess there’s a market demand for one smelly movie every ten year, but that should cover it. And splashing water and vibrating chairs belong in theme parks, not in theatres. It’s fun for about ten minutes.
A different experience
Last weekend I had a very different movie going experience. I found myself in a long queue for tickets outside a cinema and I don’t know last time that happened. And it wasn’t 3D, 4D, 5D or whatever D that had attracted us. It was something far more basic, something I hadn’t expected to be so popular. We were waiting for a silent movie – Charlie Chaplin’s The Immigrant.
The show was a part of a yearly event in my city, a one day arts and culture festival with all sorts of performances going on all over the place – film, theatre, music, dancing and exhibitions. Our oldest cinema participated, running a program with silent movies every hour throughout the evening. As opposed to most other arrangements during the festival it wasn’t free of charge, and I would have expected the ten dollar entrance ticket to deter most people except from a handful of geeks.
But I was so wrong. There was constantly a huge line outside waiting for the ticket sales for the next show to start. When I finally reached the front of the queue, it was sold out and I had to wait yet another hour to get one of the 130 seats.
It was amazing and unexpected. There aren’t any Ds in Charlie Chaplin movies. We were watching a movie from the cinematic Stone Age, a movie without sound. How was this possible?
As I watched I began to understand. I saw why people of all ages queued for this and why they kept coming back for more year after year.
Normally I’m not one of Chaplin’s biggest fans; I think slapstick and clownery is more painful than fun to watch. But there was a huge difference about this showing: the music was performed live. A pianist, lightened by only a candle, was playing it to us, gently interpreting everything that happened on the screen into music.
The atmosphere was fantastic. It was as if we all suddenly rediscovered Chaplin, entering a time machine bringing us almost a hundred years back in time. People were really into it, they were laughing all the time, and suddenly I found myself giggling too as I watched I watched Chaplin struggling to stay on his feet while the boat was tipping from side to side. It was strangely entertaining.
The trip back to 1917 only lasted twenty minutes, but it was so enjoyable that I’d love to do it again. Even if it means I’ll have to queue for it.
Does this mean that I suggest theatres to go for a big scale silent movie concept in order to gather the masses? To be realistic: no. A part of the charm of this event is no doubt it’s exclusivity. It’s only available once a year. I don’t think silent movies is the given success concept for theatres anymore than 3D movies are.
Nevertheless the success for the silent movies is worth some consideration. Maybe the new technology with multiple D.s isn’t the one and only road forward. We’re already over stimulated as it is.
Perhaps we actually want the opposite – small and simple pleasures.
A candle. A pianist. A silly little man in a hat. They all reminded me of the fact that less actually can be more.
Like a cup of coffee. And a few drops of single malt, since it’s Friday night.
For an enjoyable weekend: Cheers!