On the habit of taking notes and spitting wine – does it steal a bit of the magic?
“When I was taking notes on it I stopped trying to critique it, I stopped trying to analyze it, I was just trying to write down what I was seeing as fast as I could and I could only get half of it down”.
Those words aren’t mine, but they stuck with me. It was Jake Cole who said it as he was a guest on the 50th episode of The Matineecast. He was talking about one of the extended action scenes in the recent Tintin movie.
I was fascinated. What a dedication mustn’t it take to not just observe, but frenetically analyze and criticize the movie you’re just watching?
I never do it. I don’t write as much as a single word – not even if I’m at home, where I’m in charge and basically could take a break at any moment to toss down some scattered thoughts.
In the case of Tintin, which I personally found strangely boring and not exciting at all, I should have had plenty of time to write down my thoughts had I wanted to. But the thought never even occurred to me.
To be fair I don’t think Jake is the one who is odd here. After spending six months among filmspotters and film bloggers I’ve realized that I’m in the minority. Taking note is a part of the deal and it’s a part of what defines what kind of a theatre visitor you are.
It’s the same as if you’re tasting wine. Only a professional wine expert spits it out. Average Joe swallows whatever he can get hold of.
Normal people have a box of popcorn in their knees as they go to the movies. The cinephile brings a pen and a notebook.
But even if it would fit nicely into my self-image as a film connoisseur, I can’t bring myself to note taking, as little as I spit out my wine.
I enjoy my movies like I enjoy my wine, not only the splashing around in the mouth, but the aftertaste that fills my mouth and the sense of comfort that spreads in my body as I swallow it.
If a movie stirs up emotions and excitement, I want to cherish it rather than analyzing it while I’m in the middle of the experience. The moment I start taking notes, they’ll run out of my reach, the same way as sand that you try to catch in your hand. The harder you close your fist around it, the less will you keep in it. I fear that an analysis on the fly would put an extra layer between me and the movie, keeping me from getting close.
To be honest I don’t even write down something immediately after watching a movie, even if it might be a good idea. In that moment I’m still too much wrapped up in what I just watched. I need to take a few steps back and let it sink in for a couple of days before I’m far enough away from it to sort out my thoughts and feelings about it.
It’s been ten years now that I’ve been doing wine tasting sessions in company with a couple of friends, serious ones with protocol and everything. But we haven’t come to the point yet where we start to spit out the wine.
And I don’t take notes in cinemas. Maybe there will be one day when I too will grow up to become a serious, adult film critic. But for the time being I’m perfectly happy to be like a child when I go to the movies – entangled in the moment, immersed in the events on the screen, oblivious of papers and pens and what I’m going to think and write about the film tomorrow.
And perhaps that’s why going to the cinema still is a magical experience to me. Every single time.