Get reel: voting with their feet

Yvonne Teh, film editor

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 May, 2013, 10:29pm

How many times have you walked out of a cinema thinking, "I want those two hours of my life back"? For me, it's happened so frequently that I've lost count.

Yet I keep on returning to cinemas to check out one more movie, unable to resist the siren call of many a filmmaker - for the truth of the matter is that my positive viewing experiences do numerically outweigh the negative ones.

Also, the highs that I get from viewing a wonderful film can last for hours, even days.

On a related note: I hardly ever walk out in the middle of a film, however bad it is. One reason for this is that I've also viewed my fair share of films that start off slowly, without much promise, but turn out to be wonderful works. Another is that it can be pretty entertaining to witness other people walking out of film screenings.

In one memorable case, before Takashi Miike's reputation for shocking filmgoers spread far and wide, I attended a screening of his Audition at an art house cinema in the US. The audience was largely composed of senior citizens who were expecting to take in a gentle drama about a lonely widower in search of love and a new wife. Never have I seen so many people vacating their seats and the theatre so hurriedly when the film turned out to be far more horrific than they expected.

In comparison to their American counterparts, Hong Kong moviegoers appear considerably more willing to give a film a chance once they've bought a ticket and settled down into their cinema seats to view it. I can count on my fingers the number of times I've been at screenings here that have prompted significant numbers of walkouts.

Strangely, the most recent instance I experienced of this was at a Hong Kong International Film Festival screening of Museum Hours, a low-key drama about a friendship that forms between a Viennese museum guard and an American visitor to the Austrian city.

The critically acclaimed work is neither particularly controversial nor lengthy. But from their actions, it seemed that some viewers that day decided the film just wasn't worth their time.