Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte
seen @ Bryant Park Summer Film Festival, Bryant Park, New York NY
I don't go see movies at Bryant Park as much as I used to. That's likely because things have changed. For one thing, entrance to the lawn area is more regimented; park security checks all bags before you go in. The bigger reason, I think, though, is the general unpleasantness of people. In general, the smaller an outdoor movie crowd in New York is, the easier it is to tolerate, and the Bryant Park crowd is huge.
I remember going there a year or two ago with Reid to see High Sierra, a movie I had never seen and was looking forward to, but it was spoiled by assholes around us (I forget exactly how). We ended up leaving early. This year, there are two films that I had my eye on, and last night's film, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte was the first. I figured it was worth giving Bryant Park a try again.
As it turned out, the worst part about last night was the weather. It was hot like you wouldn't believe! I got to the park sometime between seven and seven-thirty. I was walking east from Eighth Avenue, just a few blocks, but by the time I got to the park, I was sweaty and tired and uncomfortable in my clothes. Free ice cream bars were being given away at the south entrance, so I happily grabbed one, and that helped for a little while. I sat down in a lounge area just outside the east end of the lawn, with chairs and tables with beach umbrellas, so I was in the shade, but the shade didn't help. It was sweltering hot, and it stayed that way all night.
The heat made me sleepy and unwilling to move, and it didn't help that I was losing interest in the movie. The sound system was plenty loud, even way in the back where I was, but bits of dialogue still sounded slightly muffled, so while I was just barely able to follow the story, it didn't strike me as anything more than three old harpies - Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland and Agnes Moorehead - shrieking at each other in Southern accents. In fact, I was prepared to leave at one point. But then bodies started dropping. And Bette has a weird dream sequence... and Olivia started slapping Bette around... and that flower pot...
Still, there were other problems. Early in the film, a bunch of Eurotrash teens gathered at the ramp underneath my position and chattered for awhile, not loudly, but loud enough to be a distraction... and some of them were smoking. So I had to chase them off. They looked at me like I was the crazy one. Maybe it was the language barrier.
The ubiquitous glow of cellphones lit up across the lawn here and there, and some people stood on the ramp taking pictures of the screen with their cells. They didn't block my view, but they were an irritating distraction. Last week when I saw Dracula in Prospect Park, I saw people taking pictures, but they were mostly interested in shots of Philip Glass and his orchestra performing alongside the film, and I was willing to cut them some slack for that. Hell, I was tempted to take a few quick shots myself. Here, it was different. It felt more like a tourist-y thing.
There was one old-timer near me who was eagerly talking old movies with his friend, but beyond that, I didn't feel like I was watching this with a crowd that appreciates movies in general, much less old movies. True, the crowd did applaud when Bette does something important in the climax, but it was an almost perfunctory bit of applause and not a HELL YEAH kind, which is what it should have been. Maybe I imagined all of this though. I dunno. Perhaps I'll be able to tell the next time I come to Bryant Park.
As for the movie itself, well, I'd probably need to see it again to get a better feel of it, but for all the horror movie-style imagery and campy diva duels, there's something to this. It's well shot, for one thing - not just Bette's dream sequence, but the long prologue in the beginning where we see young Charlotte at the party, deep in shadow, dominated by the large figure of her father. Plus, the language pushes the barriers, for 1964, anyway: it's a bit of a shock to see Bette Davis use the word bitch. Grade this one incomplete for now, I guess.