Hannah McGill: Heckling is the right of a cineaste

Inherent Vice, starring Joaquin Phoenix, has been giving cinemagoers itchy feet, it seems. Picture: Getty
Inherent Vice, starring Joaquin Phoenix, has been giving cinemagoers itchy feet, it seems. Picture: Getty
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I SHOULD like to take this opportunity to apologise to anyone who was at a screening of the first Sex and the City movie in the Edinburgh area in 2008, and may have been bothered by a woman storming out of it whilst shouting: “This is nonsense!” Possibly this woman was holding a no-longer-entirely-full bottle of wine, and possibly she actually used a word other than “nonsense”.

While I stand by that assessment of the film, I regret the breach of cinema-going etiquette. I think the aforementioned wine had precipitated the happy delusion that the rest of the audience would follow me, the Pied Piper of the Omni Centre, down the aisle and through the lobby and into a bold new dawn of refusing to tolerate insufferable braindead cack. They didn’t, and I’m much more respectable these days – honestly.


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Some people still like to go public with their cinema walkouts, though these days, one can use the medium of Twitter, rather than its antiquated predecessor, Drunk Shouting.

Lately, a lot of people have been reporting on their inability to sit through Paul Thomas Anderson’s Thomas Pynchon adaptation Inherent Vice. It has been accused of varying degrees of incoherence, and of making people lose their will to live.

While people will stick with TV shows over endless hours of pseudo-meaningful meandering – yes, I’m looking at you, Lost – a stronger urge for the artwork to fully explain itself seems to kick in when people have had to leave their homes to experience it, and have to sit still and quiet in the dark rather than livetweeting their befuddlement or wandering off to make a sandwich during the boring bits. Particularly if unscrupulous marketing has led them to expect a rambunctious laugh riot, rather than a wilfully challenging and eccentric slab of postmodern psychedelia.

Is there something inherently vicious about walking out of a screening… discreetly, without shouting? Of course not: as a consumer you’re free to sever your commitment to a film just as you might give up on reading a book, and it’s between you and how angry it’s made you whether you try to get your money back or not.

Critics, who are paid to make a considered judgment on the whole film, should stay until the end, because no-one ever said your day job was going to keep you continually entertained – but that’s not to say all of them do. (I wasn’t reviewing that Sex and the City movie, by the way; I was there as an inebriated, irritable punter, wasting my own money.)

But do audience members who decide a piece of art doesn’t work for them have a right to be indignant towards the artist? Maybe Anderson’s intention was to alienate a portion of the audience – just as source author Pynchon writes for the pleasure of people who get it and in complete defiance of people who don’t. Walk out by all means, but as you pass the pick’n’ mix, consider if what any of us really wants is a film culture that’s bland enough to please all of the people all of the time.

Pronounced poseurs

CHIMPS raised in the Netherlands which were then moved to Edinburgh Zoo have reportedly altered the tone of voice in which they request apples to match the way locals communicate.

This may not come as a surprise to anyone who went off to university and returned for the holidays with one of those non-specific, upward-inflected, pan-British drawls. The Dutch chimps are just trying to fit in with their cool new housemates. Reports have yet to surface of them writing bad love poetry, sharing a tub of black hair-dye or falling out over who ate the last Pot Noodle. «

Great escapers in the spotlight

ONE in ten people keeps an “escape fund” in case they suddenly decide to leave their partners, a report suggests. That, of course, is very sad and serious. Conspicuous through the tears, however, is the average size of this clandestine pot: £7,500. A few quid in 2ps in a jar is one thing – but who in these straitened times has seven-and-a-half grand going spare? And successfully keeps it secret?

I know some of you made wiser career choices than “freelance arts writer”, and thus might have “savings”… but doesn’t your partner know about them? After all, applying for a mortgage these days involves sitting under a bare lightbulb for 72 hours detailing every Twix you’ve purchased in the past five years. Keeping a stash of readies to yourself is a challenge when securing a property means throwing in everything, including change from down the sofa, for a deposit.

In any case, if you’re keeping secrets on that scale, no wonder your relationship isn’t flourishing. People, it’s time to come clean about your escape funds. Either your partner will kick you out or you can air your issues and commence the healing process with a very lavish Valentine’s Day.