Sunday, October 10, 2010

We all have to go sometime...

I belong to a film society that meets every Saturday and Sunday morning at the Royal Theatre in West Los Angeles. I’ve been a member of it for years. The Royal is part of a dying breed, an old art house standalone that has been a constant in the neighborhood since 1924, when it was called the Tivoli, and that portion of Santa Monica Blvd. was part of the original Route 66.

The size of the Royal's concession stand would be dwarfed by the typical Los Angeles lunch truck. The bathrooms are so small and cramped, it’s best to simply hold it until the end of the movie and pee in the alley behind the building. For decades I've frequented my own private spot in the alley near what is now a stunted Sycamore. Apparently, there is only one stall for the women, since the line after any movie snakes around so far out the door, you would think you were attending the Hollywood Bowl.

I first discovered the Royal several days after I first arrived in Los Angeles in 1971, and I've been a regular patron ever since. The foreign fare, documentaries, and hard-to-find films shown there are superb. I also enjoy sitting for two hours in seats that worsen my spinal stenosis exponentially.

However, the film prints received for the specific society screening, look and sound as if they’ve been dragged through the dust of a Sergio Leone western. My twenty year-old car radio has a better and cleaner amplification system than many of these flicks. That's not the Society's fault. They show what the producers and studios send them and most of the time the copies are not of the finest quality.

At least once every screening, the film either stops dead or the automatic projectors fail to correctly time the end of one reel and the beginning of the next. This is like a seventh inning stretch for this crowd. These precious seconds allows the audience to mumble and groan and sometimes even wake up to check for text messages. These are minor inconveniences because the film society screens hundred of movies a year at the Royal and elsewhere. Measuring the quantity of cinema against its annual fee adds up to pennies per picture.

But the film members themselves drive me away from acknowledging my AARP membership. I’m almost ready for Social Security myself, but damn, if I don't think I’m the youngest guy in the theatre on any given weekend. No sooner do the lights go down but the coughing and wheezing and hacking and sneezing come up. The unintended audio for any movie, regardless of its genre, therefore resonates across the 600 seat auditorium like an old style tuberculin ward. Thomas Mann never visited Davos, Switzerland to write The Magic Mountain. Instead, he spent a couple of weekends with at the Royal simply listening to all the lung congestion disorders in the audience.

I’m no heartless soul. I understand old age. Several years ago I tore my back up so badly I thought I would end up moving around like an amoeba for the rest of my life. I’m now of that advanced age where people use the word “sir” twice when addressing me. My prostate has a mind of its own and takes off on all national holidays and most dates where the numerals 1,2, or 3 appear. My skin now sags so badly people mistake me for a Shar Pei. My gray hairs send each other death notices.

But for crying out loud people, does everyone in the audience need to begin hitting the restroom at the five-minute mark of every movie? There’s more traffic up and down the theatre aisles at the Royal on the weekends than can be found on the 405 during a Friday afternoon rush hour.

God bless them, but each step of theirs is as labored as walking shoeless through the Mojave at noon. If it weren’t for the theatre doors opening every 30 seconds, allowing for morning sunlight to cascade through the never darkened theatre, these poor sods probably wouldn’t be able to see where they were going.

At least these old timers can walk without assistance. The ones roaming up and down the aisles with the use of their walkers and steel tipped canes have an uncanny ability to pick the exact moment when a story point is revealed, a pivotal character is shot, or some cheap egregious sex scene is just about to play out. Their rattling and clanging are enough to scare off Marley’s ghost.

Today was especially aggravating because screening was the Swedish thriller, “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” For all I know, the movie could have been called, “The Crowd that Needed to Go Potty.” My Swedish is a tad worse than my Norwegian or Finnish which is none existent. I’m the only one in the world who hasn’t read the Steig Larsson novels so I was expecting at least to gain some understanding of the story from the subtitles.

Subtitle reading is an art form. White subtitles against white backgrounds takes on a whole new level of perspicacity. Craning around hacking, slow-moving Sisyphean seniors as they empty their seats and travel the long road to salvation would normally make me want to scream bloody murder. But I know better. Such exertion now agitates my bladder, and I only wear two layers of adult diapers to weekend movies at the Royal. If I tried to pee in the alleyway any longer, I'd be there until the next weekend.

1 comment:

  1. the crazy voice ladyNovember 8, 2010 at 5:42 PM

    I suppose war and peace is out of the question!