Experiencing Film

“The last X I experienced was X” posts circle social media like buzzards as we all adjust to our Quarantine of Indefinite Time [QoIT]. Zines and shortreads examine what certain events were like as the world’s corners started shutting down. Just as anyone with an internet connect can’t avoid seeing these musings, I can’t avoid thinking on some of mine and how very different, but still important, they are. With nothing but time on my hands, I turning musing to posting, it circles your feed, and here we are.

I prefer the term ‘latest’ not ‘last’ because even though last is grammatically correct, it has an air of finality about it. I’m not blithely insisting our world is going to pick back up as we knew it in two weeks, two months, two years, two election cycles. I’m not ignorant of the fact some of my favourites have lost funding, others may not reopen, some may not go to theaters or gigs again. I’m not being melodramatic, nor am I hiding my head in the sand. But I am going to be fervently optimistic. I’ll go, with someone and someones I love, sit in a red plush seat, breathe deeply as the lights go down, and eat the largest box of popcorn available, to projected film. I’ll laugh and cry and gasp; drink beers and sway to singers hitting big notes in small places; drop harder things and jump around a field to DJs spinning classics playing to our nostalgia.

Like all of us to varying degrees, I place importance on rituals, on timing, on ceremony. I wear new socks for the first time to An Event. I hang onto that tattered jumper because it’s rad and comfy AF, but also because it took me through some specific times; some of my hoodies have seen Some Shit, and many are currently adding to their legacy.

Cinema, theatre, gigs, are all church. All rituals.

The last movie I saw in cinemas was . . . Honey, it was not great. I’m not naming names because I’m determined to be more positive the more shut down we are, and also it meant well. (Because of Melbourne’s random-ass release cycle which always has a mix of new releases, festivals, year-old films, and special screenings, I’m fairly OK with nobody picking it, anyways). I saw said film at my favourite Melbourne cinema, which also happens to be the first cinema I visited in Australia. I had a big box of popcorn, because of course I did. I saw it with someone, and with lots of someones, the cinema packed with that crackling “alone together” feel. 

My latest live music experience was incredible in all the ways. Local act Palm Springs opened for Weyes Blood at The Corner. [Buy their tunes first Friday of May as Bandcamp do another ‘all money to artists’ push!]

Classic Melbourne venue, beautiful content, perfect performance. Sometimes crowds are annoying, sometimes they’re dead, this was the perfect mix of ‘vibing and responsive and rowdy but not so damn drunkloudtalky they ruin the experience.’ I bought a t-shirt, and have never been so glad to’ve bought band merch; in addition to its presciently perfect summation, its dates memorialise that last outing before *gestures* all this. In fact, looking at it now, I realise I don’t even know if they finished off the tour, but I’m guessing they didn’t.

Back to the idea of ascribing meaning and tying feeling to items, I reckon I’m going to have this shirt a damn long time.

Two very different experiences. Both will tide me over for a while.

It’s fascinating how different the nature of these communal experiences were and are; not just those specific ones, but cinema and concerts, with theatre somewhere in the middle. Movies are my personal favourite, and I’m left to ponder how much is that I love movies in all forms, and how much is that they’re mostly experienced in your own head, surrounded by awed silence with outbreaks of laughter and gasping, without words other than crucial whispers if you’re doing it properly.

Why do we go to the movies? Is it the popcorn? The big screen in beautiful resolution? Sitting among a hundred people, alone with your lover holding hands? What is it we can’t replicate in our living room, where screens are getting bigger, the sound systems crisper, the access better (hell, for a lot of people with extra needs, it’s far more accessible in their own living room than trying to find a place which has wheelchair access, Closed Captions, etc.). Why not just watch movies on VR?

What we’re painfully aware of right now is no matter how big our screen, how many friends we can cram into a Netflix Party, how good our homemade popcorn is (and I’ve become very, very good at homemade popcorn) it’s nowhere near enough.

Even if we don’t touch those in the plush red seats next to us, or exchange pleasantries with that stranger on the dance floor, the feel of them swaying, the sound of the sharp intake of breath as the shark fin appears, that particular, peculiar kind of intimacy, is not just irreplaceable, but irreplicable.

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