Regular readers will know that I am a strong supporter of The Room, the smash hit film sensation that is sweeping cult cinema circles like the Black Death through Europe. However, I haven't experienced the full Rocky Horror-like sensation of seeing the film with a crowd of true-blue fanatics in a loaded theater. Until last night.
The first time I watched it was a couple of years ago by myself - I was home sick with the flu, but the next day I went back to work. I'm not claiming The Room miraculously healed me, but the timing is a bit suspicious. Since then, it's only been small (but very fun) group viewings at friends' apartments, getting loaded and reenacting our favorite scenes (I was Denny). I'd had a few opportunities to see it in the theater with a raucous crowd, but nothing quite convenient enough for me to rent a suit, buy a football, and fill a flask. Thankfully, Astoria Indies gave me another opportunity to get off my ass and fully experience it.
Astoria Indies is a screening series and networking group dedicated to promoting filmmaking within the eponymous New York neighborhood. For those of you in the area, I highly recommend attending its screenings at the Bohemian Beer Garden. They're taking place on Thursdays throughout the winter, to be capped off with a genuine festival in the spring. As January is comedy month, they appropriately got their hands on The Room, loaded the audience with in-the-know ringers, and handed out plastic spoons at the entrance.
Was the experience that much different? Definitely. While my friends and I have latched onto various mystifying aspects of the film, watching it with a different group gave me new things to notice and wonder at. We never picked up on the "Full House" connection, for example, and I don't think I've ever realized that when Lisa first seduces Mark, he wonders about candles and music that aren't actually present in the scene. The (screening) room was also charged with more energy than a small group can generate, which gave the laughter a momentum that carried us through the doldrums of the Second Act (which begin after the drug dealer scene and end with the surprise party). Something that had previously been tedious - like the long pans across the Golden Gate Bridge - suddenly became another part of the fun. It had a festival atmosphere amplified by the shouting wisecracks and the plastic spoons that showered around us every time the background photograph of a spoon was glimpsed.
There were other new things I spotted without having them pointed out to me. During the conversation Lisa has with her girlfriend ("Who are you?!" the crowd shouted when she entered with her poor man's Stifler), the awful continuity became glaringly obvious. Most people have written about Lisa's bulging neck in that scene (something else I hadn't seen until last night), but to me, the bigger offense was Lisa's drastic change in hand positions from shot to shot. I couldn't believe I hadn't picked up on it before. Yes, folks, much like other classic films, The Room offers new details to enjoy on every viewing.
I am not being facetious in the slightest when I say that everyone - at least, all filmmakers and artistic types - should see The Room at least once (and if one viewing is good for you, I can well understand that). Watching it is instructional, to be sure, but it's also, in some ways, inspirational. After all, if this one man could manage to get his dream project finished and embraced by fans around the world, what's to stop the rest of us?