What’s Wrong With The Picture: Saturday’s Screening of Enter The Void

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A few years ago while attending the International Film Festival Rotterdam, I watched the world premiere of the Dutch made documentary BABAJI, AN INDIAN LOVE STORY. At this screening I was privy to an odd series of announcements springing forth from what I assumed was part of the soundtrack. Somewhere beneath the conversation of the elderly Indian subject of the film and the ambient sounds of his bucolic back yard came proclamations of “Rook to Queen’s Pawn Six.” and  “Rook To Queen’s Bishop Four”.  At first I believed these strategic announcements of chess movements to be the filmmakers sly commentary  on the images that flickered across the screen. However, as they began to lose synchronicity with those images, there was no mistaking the trouble with the picture. Yes the likely overworked projectionist must have some how hooked his computer into the house audio system, forgetting to remove it after starting the film. Once he started the screening, he also set about to finish his chess game, whose sounds and moves shrieked through that same system creating a brand new audioscape for the film, one completely different from the filmmakers intentions. And while this mistake was made all the more troublesome by the fact that the filmmaker was present, a world premiere screening, and that this was in the filmmakers home country, it was just one in a series of exhibition disturbances I’ve experienced at a film festival or film venue.

Year after year, there are rumors of similar glaring omissions, screening failings, or videos in place of film prints occurring at one or another festival in our very own city.  Annoying as these are, they’re common enough that the audience begins to lose sight of their impact on the screening experience. We’ve often encouraged audiences to reverse this course by voicing their concerns at screenings. Come out to the lobby to inform any staff at any theatre of lapses in exhibition quality. Moreover we encourage film venues to make announcements to the audience of such problems as they arise. We know they’re inevitable in this business regardless of whether its a festival or a multiplex.

So it was a troubling surprise this afternoon when I answered the phone to hear a patron on the other end first informing me of an egregious error that occurred on one of our screens Saturday evening. During our presentation of Gaspar Noe’s already disturbing ENTER THE VOID, our projectionist completely missed the final reel of the film, leaving our viewers with the feeling that the film ended with a rather uncomfortable abortion scene. And while any seasoned filmgoer knows that we take great pride in the presentation of our films, taking all appropriate steps to assure that our films are screened in their entirety, at the appropriate sound levels, with appropriate aspect ratios and that an occurrence like this is an anomaly that we assure you we’ll avoid in the future, I am quite aware of the impact such errors leave on the audience.

We’d like to apologize to our viewers for leaving them with a less than satisfactory and frankly incomplete viewing experience.  We strive to present you with films in their intended screening formats, in the manner in which their filmmakers intended for them to be seen.  While we know this message won’t reach everyone who attended the screening on Saturday, we want to extend an offer to anyone out there who was in attendance that evening to return to the theatre tonight or tomorrow on us. The screening for those patrons will be free. If by some chance you can’t make it, we encourage to print this email out and present it sometime this month for free admission to any of our other films, excluding the Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, who operate their own box office. I hope that the forthright nature of this message engenders a certain respect in return. In other words please don’t abuse this offering. We regret our  blunder and hope that this type of lapse in exhibition quality never occurs again in our theatre.

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