Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Most Momentous Moment at the Movies in 2008 (thus far)

This evening I watched my third movie in three consecutive nights. (I like to call it “tripling up”. It’s an especially fulfilling feeling, up there with getting a strike in bowling or making that diving catch from shortstop to start a line-drive 6-3 double play in softball.) After enjoying Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! (which made me feel like a giddy little kid part of the time) on Friday and enduring Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (which made me feel like I needed a shower) on Saturday, tonight I watched Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. The movie was predictable, insubstantial, and wholly worthwhile, with Amy Adams at her most incandescent.

But this isn’t a post about any of the previously mentioned movies. It’s about the trailer I just watched (perhaps “experienced” or “participated in” would be a better choice) during the showing of Miss Pettigrew. Although it’s early thus far in 2008, I’ve already managed to see 13 films in theatres (for the record, The Bank Job is probably the best of the bunch). I don’t reveal this to brag about how diligent I’ve been in attending movies (well, maybe a little) but to emphasize that the most important cinematic moment I’ve experienced thus far came watching this trailer.

I’ll set the scene. I was at the Common (naturally), joined by my friend Raashi and her friend Jenna. The screening had just played the trailer for Smart People, which got all three of us smiling (at this point, I think I could watch Ellen Page eat a bowl of cereal and wind up smiling). When the next trailer started, I realized I hadn’t seen it before; given the volume of movies I see at the Common, this unfamiliarity was a slight rarity, meaning I was automatically intrigued. It opened with a few epic-style shots of some sort of vast imperial court, meaning it was obviously a lavish period piece. This intrigued me further – forgive me, but I like lavish period pieces. Then there’s some voiceover by a British gentleman (ooh, British!). And then…

Well, I don’t exactly remember what happened next. I vaguely recall the trailer showing a silhouette of a woman slowly walking toward the camera. At one point, well before the woman came into focus, I believe I suddenly sat bolt upright in my seat, and I may have begun to hyperventilate. This likely startled poor Raashi – I doubt she was accustomed to her normally stolid theatre companion suddenly having a physical fit, much less during a trailer. But this was out of my control, because once I recognized the identity of the silhouetted figure – and I recognized her well before she came into focus – any sense of decorum that I possessed vanished. I needed to be as close to the woman as possible, and sitting bolt upright while breathing heavily seemed the best possible method.

So, there’s an obvious question here, and it is this: Why did I behave in this manner? Why did I suddenly forgo all semblance of proper movie-going etiquette and transform from a placid seat-dweller into a Jack-in-the-Box, breathless and agape?

Well, because the woman was Keira Knightley, of course.

Now, I’ve written at length about my love for Keira Knightley in the past, most recently in commendation of her extraordinary work in Atonement. I feel no need to go into that here, except to say that I wonder if any 25-year-old male has ever had an infatuation – O.K., an obsession – with an actress more passionate than this. Rather than being borne purely out of lust, I believe my feelings for Keira Knightley may constitute actual love. Say what you want about the realistic capacity for me to develop such feelings of devotion for a woman when the entirety of our interaction has been separated by the inflexible boundary of a movie screen. When Keira Knightley started walking toward the camera – toward me – in that trailer, my heart started pounding.

And that’s why this trailer represents the most important moment I’ve experienced thus far at the movies this year. It’s the only time in 2008 when I’ve felt vulnerable while watching what’s on screen. Here’s hoping it happens again.

(When Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day ended, Raashi and Jenna immediately began discussing their mutual rapture for Lee Pace, one of the movie’s more charming gentlemen and the star of TV’s “Pushing Daisies”. My contribution to the conversation: “Maybe if we stay till the end of the credits, they’ll play the trailer again.”)

Of course, whether the movie – it’s called The Duchess, by the way – will be any good remains an open question. The trailer looks spectacular, but I haven’t heard a ton of buzz about it yet, which is worrisome. Also, the director is Saul Dibb, whose last feature was a 2006 miniseries called “The Line of Beauty”, about two gay lovers in 1980s London – he doesn’t exactly have Joe Wright’s pedigree. And while Charlotte Rampling and the suddenly desirable Hayley Atwell costar, the supporting cast is far from show-stopping.

Still, with Keira Knightley involved, I’m more than happy to face these questions with optimism and enthusiasm. The Duchess has a rumored release date of September 12. I can assure you that I’ll be first in line for a seat.