Tuesday, August 9, 2011
A writer-director. Two stars. A title. And ... go.
It's very rare these days that we watch movies we know nothing about.
I'm speaking for myself here. Who knows, perhaps you clap your hands over your ears and spew nonsense words in order to block the sound when someone talks about a movie in your presence. Me, I don't try to police myself too closely. I don't specifically try to avoid trailers, I read little tidbits of movie news when I come across them, and I only stop listening to people talk about a movie if I sense they're starting to discuss spoilers.
So it was quite interesting this weekend when I arrived at the movie theater to see Miranda July's The Future, not knowing anything about it except what I've listed in the subject of this post.
When the movie opened on a black screen and the narration of a cat with a cutesy-tragic voice, I knew I'd made the right choice to go in blind. And sat back, just wondering what I might have in store.
Okay, you can't do this for just any movie, and it doesn't make sense to do it for most movies. We usually want to justify paying theatrical prices by being pretty sure we're going to like the movie in question, or at least that it passes the usual tests we put a movie through -- do I like the subject matter, do I like the stars, does it seem to be made well, that kind of thing. I wouldn't advise just walking up to a theater, choosing a title randomly and paying for a ticket -- although that could be interesting and might turn out great, it's also a bit like playing Russian Roulette. My $12.50 is worth a bit more to me than that these days.
So why The Future for my own blind experiment? July. Not the month, the person. Miranda July directed Me and You and Everyone We Know, a very quirky character piece starring herself and John Hawkes. I loved the film and thought it had an astoundingly unique voice. I used that love to trust Miranda July on The Future. Kind of like if you blindly bought the new album from a band whose other album you liked, even if you hadn't heard a single song off the new one.
Then I also knew that it co-starred Hamish Linklater, whose work I've always appreciated (most recently in the intermittently funny The New Adventures of Old Christine). And the title itself -- The Future -- seemed to promise big things. After all, I'm still buzzing from the sci-fi existentialism of Another Earth, which I saw two weeks ago.
So the things I knew were enough to get me in the door. In that sense I didn't go in "completely blind."
But there was definitely a thrill in not having carefully vetted the movie before I saw it. I have that experience sometimes when I'm streaming something on Netflix, but not usually in the theater -- not almost ever, in fact. For me it mostly only happens when I'm sent to a screening in order to write a review. Since it's free, there's no risk, so I have that rare opportunity to go in completely unbiased. But even in those cases, usually I'll have at least glanced at the press materials. When I made the major discovery of Agora, one of my favorite films of last year, by seeing a screening of it, I didn't know much about it either -- but I did know it was set in Egypt of 4th century A.D. Which is one more thing than I knew about The Future. (But I guess I would have been pretty surprised to see July and Linklater come on screen in sandals and togas.)
Anyway, I guess my point is: It's worth taking that risk once in awhile. I won't say that The Future was my favorite film of the year or anything, but it was great not knowing whether it even could be or not. When you don't know anything about a movie, it could be the best movie you're going to see that year. It could also be the worst. Some movies we see knowing it could be the best, and others we see knowing it could be the worst, and still others we see knowing it will likely fall somewhere in the middle. But usually you have some idea. For me, the future of The Future was entirely unwritten.
As I will leave it for you. All you know is the writer-director, the stars, and the title.
Oh, and that there's at least some narration by a cat.