It's probably pretty obvious by now that 95% of the movies I see are new releases. I might rent one movie a year (I've never had a Blockbuster or Netflix account), or I might borrow a DVD from a friend or from the library, or I might see an older movie on the new Encore channel lineup I just got. But the vast majority of the time, if I'm seeing a movie, I'm sitting in a theater. What this means is there are virtually no newly released DVDs I would watch (since I saw what I wanted to see in the theater), and there are many hundreds of older films I'd like to see. I just can't find the time, and until Hollywood adopts my soon-to-be-trademarked Movie Offseason, I'll probably continue my habit.
Anyway, all of this is to say that I see lot of movies in movie theaters. As such, I have many great memories of movies that I experienced for the first time in the theater. With "Theater Seens", I'll simply recall a scene from a particular movie that was memorably gripping, hilarious, moving, or frightening when I saw it in the theater. If I can find a YouTube clip of it, so much the better. There's no way my experience could ever be recreated, of course, because I'll never see a particular scene or a particular movie again in the theater for the first time, and that makes all the difference.
Movie: Mulholland Drive
Scene: Winkie's Diner/Dan's Dream
Where: Copley Place Cinemas, Boston, MA
When: October, 2001
Seven years ago this week, I believe it was, I saw Mulholland Drive at the Copley Place Cinemas in the Prudential Building in Boston (the theater has apparently since closed and been refashioned as a Barney's New York clothing store...rage...). I believe it was opening day, Friday afternoon. I can't even remember why I went, considering I'd never seen a David Lynch film before (why start then?). So I went alone, naively expecting...who knows?
This was at a time when the use of time-shifting in movies was really popular (Memento had been released that spring), and it was a trend that I kind of liked - and still do, actually. It keeps you guessing. Or in the case of Mulholland Drive, it keeps you guessing, and guessing, and guessing, and guessing. And then you realize time has nothing to do with it because it's just straight up madness with no beginning, middle, or end. I don't think I've ever been more relieved after seeing a movie as I was when I got home and read Roger Ebert's review, in which he explained that, in fact, there was nothing to explain. It's still one of my favorite reviews of Ebert's - maybe my favorite of any that he's ever written.
Although I can't remember the exact moment during Mulholland Drive that I realized I was essentially dreaming, I know there was one scene that definitely made me want to wake up: Dan meets his friend for breakfast at Winkie's Diner on Sunset Blvd., which happens to be the location of his bizarre recurring dream. In it, he and his friend sit in the diner, terrified of a mysterious man hiding behind the dumpster behind the building. "That's it," Dan tells his annoyed friend, who immediately gets up to lead Dan out behind the building to prove his silly bogey-man dream is just that.
What's so memorable for me about this scene was how insanely scared I was. And by what?! This is broad daylight, there's no creepy music, and there's no murderer lurking in the corner. It's just a guy telling his friend about a weird dream! The only explanation, other than the fact that I'm a big baby, is that by this point I had already learned that nothing was predictable in this movie, and if a character was hinting at a foreboding future, it was probably going to turn out ugly.
Indeed, my reaction in my seat exactly mirrored Dan's as the face appears from behind the corner. I don't think the handful of people in the theater with me noticed (speaking of them, never before or since have I actually heard half-hypnotized people unconsciously mutter aloud, "What the...?," so many times during a movie), or they just may have fainted themselves as well.
If you've seen Mulholland Drive you know this is one of many bizarre scenes, and you might wonder why this one in particular sticks with me. Well, I guess this was just the first time David Lynch really "got" me. Maybe it's just that simple. Because of this scene and many others (and my ignorance going into it), Mulholland Drive remains the most surreal, bewildering theater experience I've ever had. I was in such a daze as I walked out that I almost forgot how to get back to the T stop. It's almost a wonder no one asked me if I needed assistance.
I doubt it, but I have to ask: Did anyone else get rocked by this scene in the theater?