Screen Madness

One problem with film reviews is their timing, out of sync with the film experience, at least mine, though I suspect others' too. The important critics go to screenings -- in screening rooms so wonderful that when for a brief time I was privileged to sit in them I couldn't bring myself to go a moviehouse for a long time -- right before a film is released, and their published reviews coincide with the movies' run and the public going to the theater.

Stealing Beauty.jpg

Except I don't watch movies that way, seated in a darkened hall. Do you? Oh, I know someone who believes that's the only way to see them, but just one someone, no one else I know has ever expressed such a view. I watch movies on TV, and not even on their first run now that many are available pretty soon after their theater premiere. I watch movies haphazardly. What's playing tonight? Do I want to see that again? And how about the real oldies?

I'm a movie addict, been one all my life. I watch a lot of junk. Once. Almost anything is entertaining because of its novelty. And I watch many over and over. Like many, perhaps most, folk. I also stop watching if I get bored or have something better to do, or not better but different. It's an addiction but, as addicts like to say, I have it under control.

Tonight Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty was on. I watched it for a while, then stopped. I used to love Bertolucci, but eventually stopped loving his films -- except The Conformist, which I still do. The decline of my affection coincided with and was a sign of my waning interest in "cinema" and my going back to being a kid who loved the movies. Bertolucci's films are cinema. They certainly are beautiful. Stealing Beauty is. But the characters are mostly annoying in the worst expat way and the Search For The Father -- really? However, I loved the flowing clothes and how much nicer than the current and, alas, enduring fashion for everything tight-fitting. Plus Bertolucci sure knows how to steal beauty. It's the hint of pubic hair as Rachel Weisz sunbathes, the flash of underpants as Liv Tyler romps, the way Bertolucci knows how to tease the male spectator's cock. The guys are not bad looking either, and they do bare all.

And that's how I watched Stealing Beauty tonight. Incompletely. Pruriently. Knowingly. Somewhere there's a film theory about what I just did. There used to be a phenomenological approach stepping on the hem of the poststructuralists back when I dabbled in such stuff, back when I briefly descended from addict to hopeless junkie. So bad it was that if you'd asked me about the plot of a movie I was watching I couldn't tell you. Honest. Though I could tell you a whole lot of other shit. Whew! I'm glad that didn't last.

I can still talk about movies -- didn't I just do that? And I've penned a review or two. But reviews are orderly and the film experience is chaotic. As is, for that matter, the TV experience, the reading-a-novel experience, experience. Do I want a chaotic methodology of film reviewing? Nah. There's enough chaos already. What's playing at the multiplex next week? Not that I plan to watch it.