My husband said, "This movie is so great." I settled in to watch, a famous long shot where the Omar Sharif character, Ali, comes riding from a great distance. In the script it reads like this:
|[Find the script here]|
This took, believe me, at least a minute. I was watching this black and white screen for a long minute, and maybe even longer, watching a guy, a Bedouin, coming from far away, except I couldn't see the guy. All those long shots meant that you could see that there was a guy, but you couldn't actually see the guy. I looked over at my husband. He was mesmerized. I looked back at the screen. Still no guy. I thought, what the hell.
It was years later--1989, in fact, because that's when a restored cut of the film was re-released--that I saw Lawrence of Arabia, this time in the old Regency Theater up on Parley's and Foothill. It was a great big theater with a great big tall screen. My husband and I were practically the only ones there on a weekday afternoon. I remember very well when the scene with the long, long shot came on the screen. That desert, expansive, shimmering with heat, broad and deep and brilliant, with a far-off stranger getting closer and closer--I felt the film reveal itself to me. It was truly one of the unforgettable cinematic experiences of my life.
Here are some other films where the circumstances of my viewing them made them indelible:
Seeing The Last Waltz in an old theater in downtown Provo, and falling in love so much with the music and the band that I stayed for a second showing, without paying (remember when you could do that? anyone?).
Seeing Young Frankenstein on New Years Day with some friends from high school, in a theater in a deserted downtown L.A.
Seeing Urban Cowboy with friends at a drive-in in Springville, UT when the summer was at its hottest.
Seeing There's Something About Mary when the historian had been diagnosed with cancer, and we were trying to see movies that would make us laugh--we saw it at Brewvies, where most of the audience had some beer in 'em, and the house was packed.
Seeing The Man With the Golden Gun on New Years Eve with my brother at a theater in Torrance. (He also endured my florid emotional reaction to a second viewing of Annie Hall at that same theater the following summer. He's a good brother.)
Seeing a zombie movie--I think now it must have been Night of the Living Dead--at the on-base theater (15 cents admission, 10 cents for popcorn, or was it the other way round?) at Yokota AFB, Japan--I was staying the night with my friend, whose parents apparently thought it was cool to take, like, 10 year olds to zombie movies. It scared the bejesus out of me.
Where, how, who with--for me, these are part of the story of seeing the movie, part of why you fall in love with some and not with others, part of why the residue of some movies will never, ever leave you.