Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Princess Bride 25th Anniversary, or How a Theatre Full of People Ruined My Favorite Movie

Last night the 50th New York Film Festival presented a screening of Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride for its 25th anniversay.  A new 35mm print of the film, courtesy of the Academy Film Archive, was shown at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in the 1086-seat Starr Theater.  A beautiful print of my favorite movie combined with comfortable seats and lots of legroom should have made for one of the best moviegoing experiences of my life.  Unfortunately, the crowd was full of fans who had a little too much fun storming the castle, and behaved as if they were in their living rooms instead of realizing there was a theatre of people surrounding them.

From the start, the volume of the soundtrack was not turned up loud enough, so you could hear every comment from every person in the room.  I don't know which was worse: the two girls to my left quoting the lines just before they happened or the fat chick to my right whispering every line in unison with the film.  Cellphones illuminated assholes in the crowd, and others felt it necessary to act like a live television audience, clapping as characters entered and laughing at things that weren't funny (I will clarify: not meant to be funny).

The restored print was marvel to look at though, allowing me to see things I hadn't detected in so many childhood viewings on a small tube television set.  I'd always noticed the paper Santa Claus hanging on the boy's closet, but I'd never put it together as taking place during the holidays until I was able to look out his window and clearly see Christmas lights on the neighbor's house.  I also think it may have been my first time spotting the cheese and loaf of bread on Vizzini's picnic table.
After the credits, Reiner, writer William Goldman, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Chris Sarandon, Mandy Patinkin, Carol Kane, Cary Elwes, and Billy Crystal took to the stage for a Q&A.  Most of the on-set stories were ones already told in the DVD extras: Mandy Patinkin bruising his rib holding in laughter during the Miracle Max scene, Mandy and Cary swordfighting with no stunt doubles, a little person named Anthony who played a R.O.U.S. getting arrested (although Cary did a nice scene depicting the man arguing with a police officer).

The lameness of the audience even pervaded the Q&A.  When the first guy stood up to ask a question, Crystal asked, "How old are you?"  "26."  "Sit down."  The crowd laughed, but I wish the guy had taken Billy seriously because this was his question for Robin: "You were my first crush.  You and Winnie Cooper.  Can I get a hug?"  What a waste of time by someone likely just hiding his love for Fred Savage.  When Carol and Billy were asked, "What was it like being in that makeup all day?" Billy quipped, "I wasn't wearing any makeup."  Crystal was the star for most of the show, but the
biggest treat was hearing William Goldman reveal that the highpoint of his writing life was scripting the scene where Westley dies: "It's the only thing I ever did in my life that I thought was a successful day."  (Watch video of his answer below.)
Carol Kane's final comment: "Watching the film tonight, I realized that it is a perfect movie."  Cheers from the crowd.  While not exactly perfect (When Westley howls as his life is sucked away, how does Inigo know his true love is Buttercup?), it is my favorite movie.  And despite the unruly crowd, it was only this time seeing the film that I teared up at Peter Falk's final "As you wish."

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