Thursday, 8 April 2010

Clapping at the cinema? Not cricket is it?

Apologies for the delay in posting. This appeared in the Bath Chronicle on Thursday, March 18.

Something really unusual happened at the Little Theatre in Bath at around 10.15 on Sunday night.

And that was as the credits went up at the end of the film, people did something you are not expected to do in a cinema.

They clapped.


At a theatre show when the people who have entertained you can hear your response then this is fine. But what about for a film where none of the participants was within, say, 3,000 miles of the screening?

Now that IS unusual.

The film in question was Michael Moore's latest polemic; Capitalism – A Love Story. For those who don't know, Mr Moore is that rare thing in America, an out-and-out 'lefty'. He has made TV programmes and films which are always interesting and full of ideas and no matter what your politics you will find something that either raises your spirits or your blood pressure.

Like all good political performers he has the ability to equally engage those who love his philosophy and those who loathe it. And his latest work is no exception – it earned applause in Bath but, I suspect, will earn an avalanche of rotten tomatoes in Alabama.

I did enjoy the film but that clapping lark still came as something of a shock. It is hardly a British thing to show our emotions at the best of times but to do so for people who can't even hear you?
That's just not cricket.

It did, however, remind me of why cinema remains a golden medium. This spontaneous applause was a rare event but not nearly as rare as people clapping in their own homes after a good TV show or film.

Imagine Jeremy Paxman ending Newsnight with the words 'that's it from us....good night' and people leaping off their sofas in their jim-jams shouting 'bravo Paxo!' Unlikely isn't it?

The fact that cinema can offer this power of collective experience is what contributes to its magic.

I have sat in films where no one wanted to speak at the end (I recall watching Schindler's List where people felt almost reluctant to leave their seats as if it was somehow disrespectful), films where people have stood up and cheered (ET when Elliot's bike flew into the sky) and even films where people started dancing.

The last time I saw dancing in a cinema was, however, a bit embarrassing.

I had gone to see Mamma Mia at the Odeon in Bath and the film replicated the end of the stage show where there is a Dancing Queen reprise and people are encouraged to stand up and jig along. When the film reached the same point two girls leapt to their feet assuming everyone else would do the same.

They didn't.

Our intrepid super troupers were faced with the awful choice; do we carry on dancing and look a bit silly or do we sit down and look a bit silly?

They went for the former.

And duly looked a bit silly.

To be honest I almost felt like clapping when they had finished to make them feel better.

But then again you can't do that in the cinema, can you?

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