Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To Have Bogey and Bacall on the Big Screen

Imagine - if you can, I know this is difficult for some - being a fervent Woody Allen fan. Now imagine, and this may be even harder, being that same Allen fan in Alabama. Recently I drove from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham (1 hour) just to watch “Vicki Christina Barcelona.” (It was well worth it, and not just for the over-hyped, transatlantic lesbian kiss between Johanson and Cruz.)

Part of the reason I love Woody Allen is that I love the movies. The classics: “Casablanca,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Godfather,” “8 1/2” and “To Have and Have Not.”

Unlike Allen I didn’t grow up in an area where I could see these films in their original big screen glory. (Of course, given Allen’s neuroticism and sexual frustrations, perhaps not growing up in Brooklyn was ultimately a good thing.)

Finally, I have made the northward move from ‘Bama to Brooklyn, and I had the chance tonight to see Howard Hawks’ “To Have and Have Not” in a real theatre, with a real audience and real (really) salty popcorn. It's a movie I own and have seen, but never like this. The BAM Rose Theatre is in the middle of Hawks film festival, which means I may soon be broke.

No offense to Bose and the new fabulous home theatre systems from major tech companies (I’d still like to own one if anyone is feeling generous), but these movies are meant to be seen in uncomfortable seats in cold theatres surrounded by happy strangers. The names involved in this production are too big to be contained in a television: Howard Hawks. Humphrey Bogart. Lauren Bacall. William Faulkner. Ernest Hemingway.

Bacall has never looked sultrier than she did on a giant screen. Bogey never more badass. Hawks' direction never seemed more sure. The audience certainly took notice.

Seeing this film with a live audience changed my perception of it. The movie was much funnier than I remembered, and I have the laughing, paying public to thank for reminding me. Bogart's reaction to Bacall's famous "whistle" line generated several belly laughs, causing a big smile to find its way to my face. Bacall's impersonation of a character flirting with Bogart's Captain Morgan (yes, Captain Morgan) also drew laughs, reminding me this familiar scene is genuinely funny.

I love my DVDs. I love that I can pull out Jean Luc Godard’s “Breathless” or Allen’s “Manhattan” and watch them on a cinematic whim. However, if I have chance to either on the big screen, I’ll be sacrificing a few meals to pay to see them the way they were meant to be seen - large, loud, bright and beautiful. The experience is priceless, and we should take advantage of every chance we get.


Blogger Jennifer said...

we miss you. hope to come up and see you soon. :)

10:39 AM  

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