This year, 2007, marks the first World Affairs Conference where Roger Ebert won’t be hosting the Cinema Interruptus. Jim Emerson will be moderating instead (the movie this year is Chinatown), and Movie Habit’s writers chime in on Interruptus’ past and future.
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What Is Interruptus?
The World Affairs Conference is a five-day event that takes place every spring in Boulder on the University of Colorado campus. Thinkers from all sorts of backgrounds show up to sit on panel discussions and talk about big issues. Each event lasts about an hour, and there are usually half a dozen panels to choose from at any given hour.
Roger Ebert has been a regular at the CWA for years, and his Cinema Interruptus is one of the better-attended standing events (it’s usually two hours long, running in the late afternoon). On Monday, Ebert shows the film, uninterrupted, to all who care to pack themselves into Mackey Auditorium. Then on Tuesday through Friday, Ebert and the audience watch the film again, but this time, they stop the film anytime someone has something to say.
The result is… well, see what the Movie Habit writers think about the result.
What’s the Audience Like?
JA: The best description I heard was “300 people trying out to be Ebert’s new partner.”
MM: That’s a great description. There are people who have some interesting questions or insights, but it can get out of hand fast. There are people who can’t let go of their pet theories, and they will spend as much time as they can wrestle from Ebert, flogging their dead horse, often to the frustration of the rest of the audience.
PK: I’m in favor of anything that helps to promote cinematic literacy, and Ebert’s Interruptus does this on a grand scale, turning an incredibly large venue of 1,000 seats or so into a large classroom. But I’ve put in my time in the classroom and the Interruptus crowd has far too many pouncing eager-beavers for my personal taste. I’d rather hear the highlights from braver souls than I than actually spend the 8 hours in Mackey.
AB: There are a few know-it-alls. Roger tends to be the chief know-it-all, though he usually keeps the others in line. Though I think Interruptus is a neat idea, I do tend to get impatient after awhile. Probably the reason I seldom go to every session every year.
What Movies Lend Themselves to Interruptus?
MM: I think it helps when a film was made by an auteur. A simple, commercial film, made merely to entertain the masses, would probably not lend itself to deep analysis. Wild Hogs? Meet the Robinsons? Blades of Glory? Probably none of these would work at Interruptus. Then again, a lot of “mere entertainment” could probably withstand the scrutiny, particularly if there is a creative vision behind it. Even a bad movie could lend itself to some interesting discussions, although it probably would be as meaningful.
AB: JFK was a perfect movie for analysis. I only went to one session for that one, and the whole time was spent on just a few minutes of the film.
What Movies Do You Still Remember from Interruptus’ Past?
JA: Dark City was one of the best ones I went to. A particularly goofy film will lead to particularly goofy comments from the audience.
AB: I enjoyed Casablanca. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I’ve seen it several times, but it was fun to take a fresh look at it.
I also remember The Third Man. That was the first ever Interruptus session I attended my freshman year at CU. It opened my eyes to the notion that film could be more than just entertainment.
Movies You Changed Your Opinion Of Because Of Interruptus?
JA: Rules of the Game got knocked down a couple notches. In fact it was the first film I started but didn’t finish.
AB: The Third Man and Out of the Past. I’d never heard of these movies. Even if I had, I wouldn’t have thought of them as great movies.
What Movie Would You Love To See Interrupted?
MM: The Internet was new and I was the proud member of the Online Film Critics Society. I got an e-mail from Ebert, who found my review of Dark City. He asked if I would be attending. I wish I could have gone, both for the movie and to shake Ebert’s hand again, but I was on vacation that week.
AB: So many possibilities, but Robert Altman’s films spring to mind.
Could Anyone Else Fill Ebert’s Shoes?
MM: Yes. I think most of the energy comes from the audience. Ebert’s reputation adds heft and emboldens the audience, but I think any competent critic could run the proceedings and still have a good week of conversation. Of course, Ebert is a better name-dropper than many other critics, so the tangential gossip might suffer.
What Moment Best Sums Up the Experience For You?
MA: I never made it to an Interruptus, but I do remember attending a conference session. I was sitting off the aisle, next to the audience microphone stand. Ebert came to the mike and challenged the man on stage. His challenge: Promise to never, ever colorize Citizen Kane. The man on stage: Ted Turner. The outcome: Turner promised it would never happen.