Cinema Scenes

I don’t get movies anymore, the plot always puts me in a headlock, that and the cool-style mumblings – usually by a cop investigating an enigmatic slaying, going by a name I didn’t catch, following a law too intricate to understand, in a city that looks like New York, yet isn’t.

But I continue to go to the cinema every week, mopping up the new releases and then returning to see them again, striving to interpret the motives of screenwriters who have clearly swallowed writing manuals like they were the body of Christ. But still, each formulaic plot twist eludes my comprehension; thrillers, musicals, romantic comedies, sci-fis, action films, all interlocked like a heap of paper clips, dashed to the floor.

I have this secret I’m afraid of telling anyone; I don’t understand Titanic. Of course, it’s long but that doesn’t account for it. The themes frustrate me and the story creates a sense of unease I find baffling. I don’t even think it’s the massive death toll at the end, or the unrelenting music. Maybe it’s just the merciless acting. Who knows?

Usually I go to a screening alone but sometimes I bring a friend. However, that tends to mean I become one of those people I hate – a talker, a natterer, rambling on in hushed tones (which are never hushed enough) about why the subservient robot turned on his master, about what the ant-zombies really signify or why the revolution finally failed. It isn’t long before my questions will start to irritate my friend. He’ll set his drink and popcorn aside, turn to me with a polite smile and say, “Can we discuss this afterwards?”

“Sure,” I’ll say, staring at the feet of a moviegoer scurrying to his seat, fury building within me. I’ll make sure to never invite this friend out again. The film is completely ruined and I have to go see it at least one more time. I wouldn’t mind but the staff have started to give me funny looks.

During one outing, as I queued for a raspberry slushie, I caught the manager behind the kiosk gossiping about me with an usher. I could swear he said, “Keep your eye on that one.” And when it was my turn to be served, I said to the member of staff, who was shovelling mountains of popcorn into a paper bag the size of a baby’s head, “I spend good money in here, I suggest you focus on the pickpockets stealing iPhones in the toilets.”

But they followed me nonetheless. I was like a suspect in a ropey cop movie. In the theatre, I decided to sit on the chair at the back designated for the ushers – a power move. It didn’t take long for one of the staff to confront me. I stood and took a step forward. As I emptied the contents of my drink onto the carpet, a car exploded in three movements – pow, pow, pow.

I was forcibly removed from the theatre and as I was dragged through the foyer I shouted to the other customers, “They’re watering down the Coke and the trailers are all lies.”

I was banned.

It was the only cinema within a twenty-mile radius and my buddies refused to come round to my flat to watch DVDs, preferring to visit the local cinema without me.

I had to get used to microwaved popcorn and the tumble dryer in the flat above that sounded like a dolphin clearing its throat. I would have to pause films as the upstairs neighbours finished a load. However, this gave me time to consider storylines more carefully. Sometimes I would rewind a DVD and watch it in silence with the subtitles on. There was something inspiring about how the captions followed the spoken words. I had found a layer of depth to what could be called Hollywood trash.

I downloaded a film I knew my friends were going to go out and see one night. I boiled a kettle on the hob; they would order cappuccinos and chocolate from the snacks counter. I ripped open a bag of nachos, they would douse hot dogs with soggy onions, ketchup and mustard.

My friends would laugh through the ads and then maintain a formidable silence during the trailers and the film. I laughed at all the wrong places and felt free from the oppressive glares of people who subscribe to the same cinema etiquette as I do.

Once there was a time when movies made sense. Or maybe they just seemed to, because my mates and I created a world offscreen that matched events onscreen. We wrestled with virgins in our parents’ cars and screamed at the night sky in parking lots, smoking hash lined with plastic. All that is gone now. Everyone has cleaned up their act.

I’m alone these days, yes, but I’m in control of the environment – the breeze through the net curtains, the arrangement of lights. I won’t invite my friends over again, that way I can think out loud, stop and start the images as I please and the plots will no longer swerve and crash through my mind like heavy metal songs.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published over sixty times in journals including Able Muse, Bourbon Penn, Intrinsick, Menacing Hedge, Literally Stories and The Fiction Pool. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse.

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