carole-lombard-e-john-barrymore-twentieth-centuryThere has been an increase in debate about the brightness of cinema screens recently, raised by Peter Jackson filming The Hobbit in 48 frames per second. Its an attempt to counter the dramatic light loss you get when for some reason you have to wear dark glasses in the cinema. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to wear plastic glasses in the cinema, but as mentioned elsewhere the 3D world doesn’t work for me so there is no point getting 3D in the cinema. Anyway the reactions to 48 fps have not been altogether favourable, though Peter Jackson suggesting its like when CD’s took over from vinyl certainly isn’t helping (its not). I have an interest in a bright, well projected image, all cinema-goers do. But I bring it up because it obscures the true bright screen menace in the modern cinemas.

Yesterday I went to the BFI to see a couple of films in their January Screwball series. (With two balls in my pocket for every screening obviously). The first was Twentieth Century*, a Hawks comedy where John Barrymore hams it up to an extraordinary level, but the plot never quite matches the tempo of its leads (I also thought Carole Lombard was underused). It was the first time I had seen it, and like many a screwball comedy it requires a degree of concentration to follow the rat-a-tat dialogue. Concentration which was broken by the woman in the seat next to me whipping out her iPhone and taking a photo of the screen. And then doing it again. She then observed my micro-tuts and disapproving posture and put it away. Later in the film, someone in the seat infront of me did the same. ANd then my neighbour did it one more time.

Is this a thing now?

Foolishly I did not whip my phone out (it was off) to take a photo of them taking a photo, to thus illustrate the pointlessness of what they were doing. I can imagine perhaps if camera technology had been the only thing to progress in the last fifty years, and computers and DVD’s did not exist; someone needing a plate for their upcoming book on screwball comedies may want to take a photo of a screen. But that is not the case. 20th Century is on DVD (OK a US import in the UK) and is it not so rare that you can’t get a still from the film. You can even watch it streaming online on FreakyTrigger here:

So why would someone, two people infact, want to take a photo of the screen? on phones with their little, ultra-bright screens burning this smaller image into my retina. My assumption is that this is behaviour picked up from going to gigs, and taking photos of the band. Or indeed videoing the entire like a tribe of giraffes with TV playback monitors** on their heads. A bright phone screen is considerably brighter than the screen, and a foot away from my face its annoying. Of that I had the brashness of Lombard or Barrymore, had snatched the phone off her and thrown it into the audience – at which point I am sure hijinks would ensue.

*The other was Theodora Goes Wild, a terrific Irene Dunne comedy, where she basically plays a button up spinster who secretly wrote “The Sinner” – a 1930’s 50 Shades Of Grey, with properly hilarious outcomes when her pseudonym is discovered.

**This used to annoy me, but as a short person, I have learned to love this, as it allows me to watch the band on multiple phones and not wait for a glimpse between tall peoples heads.