I’m lucky enough to live in one of the five cities with a Sundance Cinema. Isn’t that weird? Seattle, San Francisco, West Hollywood – these cities all make sense. But Madison? And even weirder to me, Houston? I suppose Houston could be a hotbed for independent film. I’ll likely never find out, as my chances of visiting Texas are about .04%.
In the recent past, Sundance Madison has held a classics series, which consisted of showing an older film once a week. This series always brought in great movies, but because of the weekly showing being on a Wednesday, I rarely made it. One film in the classics series that I went out of my way to attend, on a Wednesday night for crying out loud, was Saturday Night Fever.
Before I get to the predictable situation I encountered at Sundance that evening, let’s take a moment to really think about the film. How many people have really watched this movie and have taken in all of its societal and subcultural context? It’s easier to identify with the more memorable soundtrack, thereby selectively recalling the movie in relation to the music, i.e. John Travolta strutting on a multicolored illuminated dance floor with ladies swooning in every direction. In reality, Saturday Night Fever is a darkly melancholy film, delving into complex issues that foreshadow irrepressible issues for decades to follow: racism, casual sex, drug abuse, date rape, teen pregnancy, sexism, suicide. In short, Saturday Night Fever is not really a movie about dancing. It’s a movie about the underbelly of the disco era in New York City. I trusted that people who went out of their way to see Saturday Night Fever on a Wednesday night would have a mutual fondness and respect for the movie in its entirety, not just some silly dance scenes.
Clearly, I was wrong. To make a long story short, the Saturday Night Fever screening was used by some local 40-somethings as Ladies Night Out. Woo hoo! They showed up late, drunk and squealing. I was hopeful that their vigor would dwindle once they became more aware of what was actually showing on the screen. Funnily, as the movie progressed, they only seemed to become confused and agitated. Needless to say, I walked out, requested a refund, and left. While I am fully aware of myself and my limitations, and I know that seeing a movie on a Wednesday night is a risk simply because I have to leave the house, I can safely say that I think the concept of Ladies Night Out (or Date Night for married couples) is a bit sad and contrived. In any case, I hope those particular ladies were able to get through Saturday Night Fever without the movie itself killing their buzz. Sundance does serve mini bottles of white wine though, so I’m sure they were fine.