screen wriTer

Cin­ema chat­ter­boxes must die, writes Don­ald Clarke

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion -

eing the very model of a flabby west­ern lib­eral, I pre­tend to op­pose the re-in­tro­duc­tion of the death penalty for even the most se­ri­ous of crimes. Of course, like most rea­son­able peo­ple, I ad­mit that, when sub­jected to an ex­treme out­rage, I do find my hand itch­ing for the noose or the deadly sy­ringe.

Imag­ine the sit­u­a­tion. You are sit­ting hap­pily in the cin­ema when you be­come aware of an in­sis­tent dron­ing em­a­nat­ing from the obese im­be­cile in front of you.

“Who’s he? Is he the man who was wear­ing the hat ear­lier?” he says be­fore shov­el­ling an­other hun­dred­weight of salted corn ker­nels into his empty head.

“Paris . . . France . . . 12 o’clock,” his equally de­testable moon­calf of a girl­friend says in re­sponse to a leg­end at the bot­tom of the screen. “Are they in France, now?”

State-ap­proved slaugh­ter is the only rea­son­able re­sponse to talk­ing in the cin­ema. If you say noth­ing to the gib­ber­ing jack­ass you will be con­demned to an hour or two of silent fum­ing. If, how­ever, you do de­cide to have a word, then a sim­mer­ing ten­sion will hang about the au­di­to­rium un­til the cred­its roll. How much sim­pler it would be if you were al­lowed to whip out an axe – a chain­saw or a re­volver might dis­turb the other cin­ema-go­ers – and neatly lop the of­fend­ers’ heads off. No de­cent per­son would mourn their pass­ing.

Now, I know what you’re think­ing. Screen­writer is, here, in­dulging in un­hinged hy­per­bole. I’m not so sure. I would, I think, gen­uinely rel­ish the pub­lic ex­e­cu­tion and dis­em­bow­el­ment of cin­ema con­ver­sa­tion­al­ists. My girl­friend and I would, per­haps, draw up deckchairs be­fore the scaf­fold and fo­cus on the wrong­do­ers’ ashen faces as they were led to­wards obliv­ion.

“Who’s he? Is he the man with the pop­corn?” I might say.

“I bet that man in the black hood is go­ing to kill that foul wo­man,” she would re­ply. “Not so f**king chatty, now. Is she?”

When did peo­ple start be­hav­ing like pigs in the cin­ema? A de­gree of ci­vil­ity per­sisted through­out the 1960s and 1970s, so you cer­tainly can’t blame the de­cline in con­duct on habits picked up in front of broad­cast television. Per­haps it was the ar­rival of video in the 1980s that blurred the dis­tinc­tion be­tween liv­ing room and au­di­to­rium. If you jab­ber be­fore Harry Pot­ter at home then you may feel en­ti­tled to jab­ber be­fore that wizard in pub­lic. What­ever the cause, there can be no doubt that to­day’s cin­ema­go­ers are less re­spect­ful to­wards the medium than their par­ents were.

Or can there? As late as the 1970s, when films still played in a con­tin­u­ous loop, it was quite nor­mal to en­ter the cin­ema half­way through the ac­tion and re­main seated un­til the next screen­ing reached the point at which you came in. Peo­ple smoked foul cig­a­rettes, snogged fu­ri­ously and, if sto­ries about the re­lease of are to be be­lieved, oc­ca­sion­ally ri­oted in the sticky aisles.

They should have strung them all up. It’s the only lan­guage they un­der­stand.

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