Sunday, October 04, 2015

Dear Viff...

First off, thank you for all your hard work in bringing all these wonderful films into Vancouver and letting me see so many of them. It's a great festival this year, and the only film I haven't enjoyed - High-Rise, seen today - was a film I was pretty much going to have to see anyhow at some point, no matter what. And I knew what I was in for, really, having read a few of JG Ballard's books and seen at least one Ben Wheatley film before, so it's not your fault (though more on that below).

However, I have a couple of suggestions. If, as with Into the Forest, a screening involves 45+ minutes of speeches and awards before the film proper starts, make sure that ticket sellers know this and tell buyers of it. I had allowed myself two hours before an early gig at the Biltmore was scheduled to start to see Into the Forest yesterday. I had no time beyond that to spare, was going to have to leave the theatre by 8 at the latest to make it to the venue, and even then would probably miss one of the three bands playing. At no point - and I asked the guy who was selling me the ticket, which I paid $16 for - was I told that I was going to be seeing 45 minutes of speeches; I asked, in fact, about the gala nature of the event, and he didn't even know if guests (like director Patricia Rozema) would be present (she was) or that they would be speaking both before and after the film, let alone that I was buying a ticket to an award ceremony. As it happens, I ended up having to leave the show before the film started, to make my show. Turns out that the gig was running late too - border messup, so I could have stayed; but I did not, could not have known this. It also happens that, along with a few other people whose schedules made it impossible for them to stay, that I got a couple of comps in exchange for the one purchased ticket, which is fine with me. But just so people can plan their schedules effectively, try to give ticket buyers a heads up when a film is to be prefaced by lengthy presentations; make sure vendors KNOW to point this out. I would never have bought the ticket in the first place had I known I wouldn't be able to see the film!

A second issue was raised by the digital projection of High-Rise at the Playhouse this afternoon. This one is actually a bit more serious, since as is not the case with Into the Forest, it was NOT handled well. About twenty minutes into the movie, the projector began to malfunction so that the previous five minutes of the film started to play as a sort of ghost image layered over the actual movie - a trippy, confusing, but mostly unwelcome effect that only really really stoned people in the audience (you know who you are) could have possibly thought deliberate. This ghost image layering went on long enough that the film actually caught up with the point when the misprojection began, I believe, and started playing the double layered image over the main image - three layers of movie, with the same characters at different points in the narrative (though only one layer of audio, mind you). It was totally confusing; the film isn't necessarily an easy one to follow even without such glitches, so at least some people - ie., me - were, by about ten minutes into the multiple-layered image, COMPLETELY LOST as to what was going on, what plot points had transpired, etc.

Okay, so glitches happen. Bizarre as this one was, we get it. We're prepared to forgive. But here's what you should know to do in such cases:

1. Stop the film ASAP, for Pete's sake! Don't assume that because one of the layers of the film is actually advancing the narrative, it's still possible or desirable for us to follow the film in this flawed state. As soon as the image of a film is MARKEDLY COMPROMISED, shut down the projection.

2. If you are doing this, promptly ANNOUNCE that you are stopping the film to deal with the damage; if you're not doing this, still let us know you're working on it. Don't let us sit there wondering if anyone knows what's going on for ten whole minutes, getting increasingly shaken and anxious as the problem is not resolved, and then brusquely brush off audience members (like, uh, me) who come up to check out if you realize what's happening. First stop the film, then say there's a technical difficulty, and ask us to wait. We will. We're nice people. We will understand.

3. When you restart the film, in this case, it's very important that you do it from a point BEFORE the damage rendered the film confusing and unwatchable, so we can re-enter the flow from the last point where we actually saw the properly projected image, where we were last following the story, where the confusion and stress of seeing things going wrong and helplessly wondering if anyone is doin' anything about it were not factors in our enjoyment of the movie.

Do not do what you did today: nothing, for ten minutes, then, when the problem was resolved, just let the film continue playing from whatever point it had gotten to, as if nothing had gone wrong, or as if maybe we hadn't noticed.

Mind you, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have enjoyed High-Rise even if I had been able to follow it. All the same, my viewing of it never recovered from this glitch. Anything I didn't understand, from that moment forward, I wondered if it was because of a plot point I missed (it didn't help that the audio at the Playhouse isn't the greatest, such that I couldn't make out several lines of the British-accented dialogue, or that I eventually started doing the sleep-nod, finding it very hard to stay awake through the film once I'd gotten thrown from it).

I mean, thanks again, VIFFpeople, it's a great festival, but the last couple of screenings I've made it to could have been handled a little bit better... just some feedback, okay? No offense.

1 comment:

David M. said...

Thousands of VIFF words later, it looks like somebody did care if you covered VIFF. So there you go.