Muppetry at the Drive-In Cinema

The drive-in cinema last night was great, but unfortunately marred by one massive mistake on their part.

I’d decided not to go. It was a two hour drive each way, and I knew nobody else who could afford to stay up until 0100 (at the earliest) on a Sunday night. There were also unfortunate resonances with my ex-girlfriend: Moulin Rouge was always a special film for us, and it was two years to the day since we broke up (sometimes you just can’t help remembering these things). I hadn’t watched the film since. At some point, though, I decided that it was worth the risk of getting upset for the chance to go to a drive-in cinema, which I’ve always wanted to do. Plus, the tickets were free, and I’d feel bad about booking a place and not turning up. So off I went.

The roads were clear and I found the venue in plenty of time. I drove into the staff car park after ambiguous gestures from the stewards, and it’s not often I’ve received a look of such obvious contempt 🙂 After a shamefaced reverse I was put onto the correct track. There were probably 80 cars in neat rows, up to 200 by the end, plus people washing windscreens, which I thought was a nice touch.

I wandered around the food stalls for a while. There was an oddly hushed atmosphere that I didn’t understand. I felt the need to talk quietly, and it seemed that whenever I looked around somebody would catch my eye as if to accuse me of staring. I grabbed a crepe and headed back to the car. At this point the woman in the car next to me told me off for parking too closely. I’d been guided in and there was roughly equal space on either side of me, but she was a relatively large lady so the space was indeed inadequate. It wasn’t like I could point this out, however. I mumbled something apologetic. Later she had some problems with tuning the radio as well as moving her car seat backwards; I think the on-site mechanic became slightly irritated, and in the end they were moved to the ‘VIP area’ – a row of Renault Meganes at the front.

I tuned the radio to the given frequency to find endless easy-listening Stevie Wonder. After a few songs mild irritation turned into active dislike, which is quite impressive for background music that most people apparently enjoy. I’m a philistine, I know. I turned it down to a vaguely tolerable level, grabbed my reading material and waited for the film to begin.

The film started half an hour late, which I guess was due to light levels. Although still watchable the screen was a little washed-out for the first twenty minutes, but once the sky darkened it became much clearer. A few spots of rain threatened to turn into a downpour, but happily didn’t.

Watching a film from the car is bloody great, frankly. You’re not disturbed by people around you and you can have the volume as loud as you like. It’s certainly as comfortable as your average cinema seating, too. I liked it a lot.

I was entertained by the similarities to standard cinemas. Plenty of people wandered around throughout, and numerous cars drove away at random points – the person next to me left after ten minutes. But the most striking similarity was when the film ended. Moulin Rouge has perhaps a minute of wrapping up between the climactic finale and the credits, and the Pumpkin People went insane. ‘Pumpkin People’ is my name for those who feel the need to jump up and flee the area as soon as credits begin rolling. You know the ones. Even when there’s something interesting still happening on screen, the Pumpkin People need to get the hell away before the spell wears off and they turn back into their vegetable selves. People who go to the cinema to watch the film, rather than watch the film. The Pumpkin People at Moulin Rouge simply couldn’t contain themselves. The little guy began singing his sad song, and the engines came on and suddenly everything was moving. By the time the credits actually hit the screen there were cars everywhere.

I didn’t get this. Me, I was still engaged in wiping away tears and watching the beautifully designed credits. Not to mention moving the car seat back into a reasonable driving position, putting my shoes on, setting up music for the drive home…It took me a few minutes to get ready to leave, and by this time I was feeling under pressure to hurry. I can only imagine that everyone else was sitting at the wheel, itching to rush away as soon as they could.

That was what I thought then.

The thing is, towards the end of the film there were a couple of moments that didn’t make sense. At one point Satine arrived in tears for no apparent reason, at another Christian declared he would visit the Moulin Rouge one last time, then went again the next day. I didn’t remember these problems, but then I hadn’t seen the film for a while. Then came a scene change that was incredibly jarring. I remember it really yanking me out of the film, because it didn’t seem to make sense. Surely I’d have remembered this? It had come after an obvious reel change, too.

I just checked my copy of the DVD, and it seems that they showed the reels in the wrong order. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know it goes Roxanne: The Show Must Go On: Opening Night and Finale. Except they showed The Show Must Go On: Roxanne: Opening Night and Finale, which due to the timing of reel changes resulted in the Opening Night Indian dance being directly followed by the Roxanne sequence, which ended in the Duke’s bedchamber and then directly cut back into Opening Night. It just made no sense. The wrong reel order explains why Satine was so upset over nothing – that scene was meant to come after the bedchamber scene – and why there were two Opening Nights / visits by Christian, as well as other odd bits of dialogue. I roughly knew the plot and was confused – anybody seeing it for the first time would have had no clue what was going on.

Really dumb mistake. It’s entirely possible that everybody was leaving so quickly because they’d realised and were cross.

I can see the problems with drive-in cinemas: in summer the films have to be shown late because of the light, and other seasons would have problems with rain. But I think the ability to sit in splendid isolation more than makes up for this, and it’d be great if somebody found a way around the problems. A admittedly large canopy would do it, as long as the carbon monoxide could dissipate ok.

I arrived home at 0140 after an easy drive. Despite the major flaw, it was definitely worth the trip. It was part of the Megane Summer Movies festival, by the way, which carries on for the next few weeks.