Friday, August 26, 2016

Simmer Down

You never know where the surprises are going to come from.

I saw Hitchcocks's "Rear Window" on the big screen for the first time in 2009 and then a second time in 2011. Tonight I saw it again but with two major differences: I was outdoors and I was seeing it with a whole passel of people who hadn't seen it before, much less heard of rear window ethics.


During dinner at a nearly empty Garnett's (there was a woman who'd dropped off her youngest at college and was having cake to help her deal with the trauma), I read the New York Times Magazine issue from December 15, 2015 (still not entirely sure why it remains in the reading box nine months later), mainly because the cover story was called "The Lives They Led" and was about obscure and notable people who died last year, so it was kind of fascinating.

And while I'd read that singer Leslie Gore of "It's My Party" fame was gay, I'd had no clue so many of her songs were about feeling like an outsider because of it.

I'd had no idea that there was a woman known as "Dust Lady" because of a haunting photograph taken shortly after the towers fell on September 11.

Or heard of Lee Israel, a two-bit writer who apparently faked a slew of correspondence by notable dead writers, a scam that led to a book deal about her literary thievery.

All dead now.

Showing my server a '60s photo of a mother and son sitting on a NYC stoop, a lit cigarette in her hand, I commented that you'd never see an image like that today and she agreed. "There's a simplicity to that that doesn't exist anymore. If they did it now, it would be so much more staged looking, so much less natural" she was sure.

Okay and there would also not be a cigarette in her hand.

Dessert consisted of a stranger's leftover frosting (she thinks icing is too sweet) and by the time I left, every seat was filled except mine. And despite everyone having someone with them, I made sure to return the magazine to the box in case others needed dinner company like I had.

Then I went undercover with the Baptists, as I do every August for their Classics in the Courtyard series. Just another heathen in a folding chair at First Baptist.

Trying to look unassuming, I began setting up my chair in the second row, only to have a woman ask me if I was with the James River Hikers. I admitted I wasn't, not sure if I needed to move my chair. She let me stay after I shared that I walk multiple miles every day.

The film had barely begun - Jimmy Stewart's window shades were just starting to roll up and Hitch had not yet cut to one of the many shots of the thermometer showing 90+ degrees - when I overheard a guy behind me ask, "Is this a murder mystery or a love story?" to which his friend replied, "Kind of both."

Kind of superfluous was the captioning, which I had to assume was on in case people couldn't hear all the dialog, but I'm pretty sure everyone there could hear the foghorns, whistles and cars beeping, so why did the captions need to show that inane information, too? It was just annoying.

It was not only an ideal summer flick, but a pretty great outdoor movie with all its references to heat. Beads of perspiration on Jimmy's face. A couple sleeping on their balcony. A composer mopping his studio in his boxers. Everyone's open windows.

As always happens when you're screening outdoors, the world becomes part of the experience. A cool breeze picked up just as it began raining onscreen and ended when it stopped.

As unfortunately also happens, glitches gum up the viewing. When the woman screams because she's discovered her little dog has been strangled, the screen froze, as if in horror.

Once we could have handled, but it kept happening, causing repeated pauses to correct it. Behind me, the "Rear Window" virgins were salivating to find out what was going to happen next.

Since I already knew that much, I focused on admiring the freeze frames of Grace Kelly, each one of which was utterly gorgeous, no matter where the frame settled.

All the starting and stopping was making for running commentary from behind, as in, "No, no, Lisa, get out of there!" when she was trapped in the murderer's apartment, or the clueless guy who saw Jimmy grabbing his camera bag for flashbulbs and whispered, "I hope he has a gun!"

Truly, I was amazed to hear so many people commenting as if this was their first time watching "Rear Window." How is that even possible in a crowd that definitely skewed pre-MTV?

When our hero mentioned needing a drink, the guy behind me said, "I need a drink, too. This is too much suspense!" Cover blown.

Not likely to happen with this crowd, friend. In any case, tonight proved that you haven't seen Hitchcock until you've seen it with the Baptists...and a few covert heathens.

And, yes, there will always be suspense.

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