A brief listing of occupational hazards that can accompany attendance at a film festival:
- Numbed buttocks
- Strained bladder
- Twitching eye, due to sleep deprivation
- Cuts on hand, after checking Twitter to see that you’ve missed out on the cool secret screening and throwing your smartphone against a wall in a fit of rage
Last night’s screening of Mike Leigh’s lush historical biopic Mr. Turner at Los Angeles’ own AFI Fest added an unexpected new entry to that list. As Leigh’s painterly vision of actual painter J.M.W. Turner blossomed onto the screen at Hollywood's Chinese 6 theater, one patron was reportedly unable to keep her eyes off of her cell phone. (If I’ve learned anything from repeated viewings of Entourage, she was most likely fielding frantic text messages regarding a Hollywood A-lister’s fluctuating availability to “do the movie.”)
The woman continued to manipulate her phone five minutes into the film, at which point a brave civilian requested that the offender pocket her glowing distraction. She refused, which makes sense, as this is still America and that means we have the freedom to be flagrantly inconsiderate toward our fellow human beings. The people’s hero then leaned over his seat to tap the phone-user on her shoulder; Variety reports him as saying, “You need to turn off your phone!,” an instruction decidedly more expletive-free than could be expected from a rational citizen.
At this point, the woman stood up and exchanged a few heated words with her challenger. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and the woman switched off her phone, with both parties settling back into their seats to enjoy Leigh’s meditation on the rocky relationship between the artist and the art. Gotcha! I bet you totally believed that these two grown adults resolved their petty conflict and reached a peaceable resolution. No, she did the other thing, and maced him in the goddamn face.
Much like the tormented soul of the Timothy Spall-played Turner, the man’s eyes burned with the intensity of an all-consuming fire. Unlike Turner, the man was able to flee the movie theater and go tend to his injuries. Satisfied with her one-hit KO, the woman then returned to her seat as if nothing at all had happened. Fifteen minutes later, security escorted her from the building, leaving her free to continue tinkering with her phone in a more appropriate setting, such as a bris or wake.
Difficult as this may be to swallow, Californication lied to us. Calling out movie theater gasbags will not earn us the adulation of our peers and a quick round of applause. No, if you’ve got the temerity to request that a fellow moviegoer display the minimum amount of courtesy during a film that scores of men and women expended time and effort to create, you better be ready for a swift comeuppance. Take that, basic decency!