I just finished watching the new Tenacious D movie1. I’m at home, so obviously I was watching a pirate, one of those films the scare ads in UK cinemas warn you about, with people’s silhouettes every now and again, and some other noises, and laughter at funny moments, and terrible picture quality.
I rather enjoyed it. There were other people watching the same film as me, which, unless you actually go to the pictures, is pretty unusual, really. The gradual iPodification of everything – making it easier to watch “your” media on “your” time – makes it easy to forget that one of the great joys of being a person “consuming” media is sharing it: watching a film with a real audience makes it into a performance, a thing with a beginning and a middle and an end, a thing that’s going on in front of actual people with whom you have something in common2.
Of course, when someone did stand up in front of the film, or when the crowd laughed, it did jolt me out of my personal communion with the film: suddenly I saw the pictures in front of me on a screen rather than in my mind, the voices barely audible over the sound of my disbelief ceasing to be suspended and crashing to the floor. But is it bad, to be reminded of other people?
Sometimes it seems to me that the pinnacle of technological achievement for the A/V industry and its supporters would be to be able to beam a film unmediated directly into the watcher’s mind. It’s nice to be able to reflect that one of the effects of technological advancement – a laptop, bittorrent, vlc – has been to reverse this process, to connect me more closely for an hour or so with other people. Shame it’s a pirate: wouldn’t it be good if official releases were this rich and complex?
1 It’s very funny, if you like movies about rock music with a childish sense of humour. Which I do. I intend to pay to go and see it in its full glory just as soon as I have some friends to see it with, thanks to this torrented viewing, and I recommend you do the same.
2Something that I thought would be brilliant is if you could choose your films by terroir (or habitus, perhaps), like wine: so, for example, you might think that you wanted to see 3 Colours Red, but recorded in an Illinois cinema to make a change from your usual Soho haunt, or Harry Potter seen with an audience who have just come from a Bunuel retrospective. Would be great to be able order films like this: maybe if I cultivated a network of cinema attendants who were willing to turn to the dark side I’d be able to set it up.