Movie Memories: The last time I saw a movie when I knew almost nothing about it (it was 1995)

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“I’m only doing it so I can poke your eyes out,” said my wife. How did it come to this?

From me reading blogs, for a start. I have read as much advice as possible as I could be bothered to before starting blogging, and one I found particularly useful recommended reading other people’s blogs. Seems sensible. Then an article on one of them caught my eye. Someone was attempting to see a movie without any prior information as to what the movie was about. In this case, an interesting movie called Five Killers, which has ended up as a rather anodyne looking movie called Killers, with Katherine Heigl and Mr Demi Moore.

Coincidentally, I’d been feeling a similar frustration, and had tried to think back to the last time I walked into a movie knowing almost nothing about it. The closest I’ve come for a long time was this year’s Exit Through The Gift Shop, mainly because I saw it before most of the major publications had gotten round to reviewing it, but I’d still seen a trailer and read some random bits on the internet before seeing it, so wasn’t totally cold.

Casting my mind way back, there was one occasion that stuck in my mind specifically, and it was seeing The Usual Suspects in 1995. I was a student in Bath at the time, and it was showing at the main cinema, including one of their occasional midnight screenings. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I can remember being completely entranced by the poster. Other than a brief interview with Gabriel Byrne I’d seen on TV, and glancing over a four star review in Empire that I hadn’t read properly, I knew nothing about this at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie from start to almost finish, apart from about an hour in when the five beers I’d had that evening finally caught up with me and I had to make a trip to the loos, desperately straining to hear what was going on at the time. (Sorry, have just realised there are words in that sentence that should probably never appear in a sentence together in a polite blog.) And then Chazz Palminteri sat on a desk, and looked at a notice board, and dropped his coffee mug, and the audience audibly gasped, and I was in love.

I caught the movie again a couple of months later when I was home from uni over the Christmas holidays, as it generally took things that long to get to where I was brought up. And without the benefit of five beers and the knowledge of what was to come. For a long time, The Usual Suspects was my favourite movie of all time. The acting, the dialogue, the story structure, the amazing combination of John Ottman’s editing and music, the iconic imagery, were what made me fall in love with film.

And in the present, it hit me. After this, I really got the film bug, and this was about a year after I first used the internet. So I started seeing whatever I could, and sucking up any and all information to try to ensure as much as possible that I had some form of quality threshold in what I saw. But that does leave you with little chance of finding such a gem without any sense of awareness beforehand, and a certain element of the mystery is lost.

So, relaying details of the blog to my wife, and of my sadness that there was no such thing as a truly unspoiled movie, the conversation went something like this.

“That’s really cool. You should try that.”

“I could just go to see Inception, I know almost nothing about that.”

“That’s no fun. Let me pick something for you. And it won’t be an Iron Man or a Terminator or something.”

“OK. Ideally it will be something coming out in about six months.”

“What about… Legally Blonde 3 then? They can’t have made that yet.”

(Googles briefly.) “Yes, yes they have. And ideally it should be something I actually want to watch.”

“OK, but I get to pick. And obviously I’ll have to screen what you read on the internet, and tear the appropriate pages out of your film magazines.”

“That feels a bit extreme.”

“Yes, but otherwise where’s the fun in it for me? Or I could just poke your eyes out.”

“That’s what it always comes back to, isn’t it? The opportunity to inflict violence on me in the name of a good cause!”

“I’m only doing it so I can poke your eyes out.”

So I won’t be going with that plan as it stands. But it would be nice, just once, to go and see something good with no preconceptions. And also not to have to rely on audio description films for the rest of my life.

Legal disclaimer: To the best of my knowledge, my wife doesn’t really want to poke my eyes out.

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