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Two movies and then what
am I supposed to say to Tim?

Today there was a double feature of H-G Clouzot's best or at least best-known pictures at the UC, but "at the UC" almost talked me out of it. I'd seen the second feature, The Wages of Fear, at the UC Theater a few years ago, and it's an excellent film but it was one of the most frustrating experiences I've ever had in a movie theater.

Maybe some people don't know that movies are on 11-minute reels. They're spooled on two projectors, and the man in the booth (sorry, but I've never seen it not be a man) switches the reels and rewinds them in between, so the audience never thinks about reels and projectors.

Well, the first time I saw The Wages of Fear at the UC Theater, they only had one projector. The other was broken, and they had no spare, so that night's crowd waited in darkness after each reel, while the next reel was threaded.

Worse, nobody from the UC had explained the problem before 200 people bought their tickets, so as one of the most suspenseful films ever made was interrupted every eleven minutes, I and others began complaining — and the theater's management refused to issue refunds!

"You can leave if you want to," said a college-age kid who seemed to be the manager, "but I'm not authorized to give anyone their money back."

So don't ask why I dislike the UC Theater, ask why I've ever gone back. The answer is, if you're in Berkeley and you love old movies, sometimes you have to gamble on that poorly-run rep house barn.

Tonight I gambled… and there were no problems. There were also no problems when Josh and I saw Medium Cool at the UC a couple of weeks ago, so maybe the place has a new manager, or just one employee who gives a damn? That would be one more than they've ever had before.

Fingers crossed, maybe someday they'll repair the broken seats and sweep up Rocky Horror's rice.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The first flick was Diabolique (1955). which if you're not fluent is French for 'diabolical'. It's an exquisite thriller set in a French boarding school for boys, about two women plotting the murder of a man who deserves to die. It's as good, maybe better than anything from Alfred Hitchcock, with suspense that keeps ratcheting up up and away until its ingenious, breathtaking end.

I didn't enjoy it as much as I should've, though, and it wasn't the theater's fault. Fifteen years ago, a friend eagerly recommended Diabolique to me, told me I'd love it, and he also told me most of the plot, so the intricate twists were familiar to me, even though I'd never seen the movie before. Thanks for the recommendation, Brian, and also, fuck you.

The Wages of Fear (1952) — tonight with two projectors! — is the story of decent but desperate men in an impoverished un-named Latin American country. When an American oil company offers $2,000 to any man who can successfully drive a truck loaded with nitroglycerin across many miles of bumpy roads, they know they shouldn't do it, but people gotta eat, so they take the world's most dangerous job. Wet-your-pants tension ensues.

I try to avoid superlatives, but the most suspenseful film that's ever been made is The Wages of Fear, and the maybe the second most is Diabolique.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Tim Ereneta, the guy who writes the zine Oatmeal, joined me for the second feature, and then we strolled Shattuck and had drinks (coffee and root beer) at a nameless café. I love his zine and like Tim, but in person we never got past the awkward stage. My fault more than his, I'm sure.

For an hour or so, we were a couple of nice guys talking about this and that, trying to think of what else to talk about and what to say next. So tonight was actually a triple feature of tension and suspense, two movies and then what am I supposed to say to Tim?

That's the way it is for me, meeting almost anyone. I'd love to have the life of a beer commercial, all friends and laughs and punch my shoulder but not too hard please, but that isn't me and never will be. I have very few friends and see them very rarely because my brain, my gut, and my sense of humor all work better when I'm alone.

From Pathetic Life #16
Tuesday, September 26, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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