20 April 2002 | petelush
In the mainstream of movies that tear down the screen
There have been movies before and after The Projectionist that tear down film's equivalent of Theatre's fourth wall by lifting the barrier between the movie and the real world. Buster Keaton did it most brilliantly in Sherlock Jr. (1924, 44 mins., also featuring a projectionist), and Woody Allen pulled off a reversal (character steps out of the screen) in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985). Steve Martin duked it out with Cagney and others in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). The Projectionist is an amusing and annoying combination of a sweet schlub played by Chuck McCann, very reminiscent of John Candy, Rodney Dangerfield's film debut as a dictatorial movie theatre manager given to delivering incredible dressing-down speeches at his hapless ushers (shades of Full Metal Jacket), a nostalgic look at Times Square before it became "Times Square", and a melding of our hero with his screen idols, including his eye-popping drop-in at Rick's Cafe Americain. So what's to be annoyed at? A running super-hero theme is weak, and once you realize it will return again and again it's stomach tightening time while you anticipate the enjoyable sequences being interrupted by this underwritten motif. But without question The Projectionist is not to be missed in a time when imagination has been sucked out of Hollywood. And so I appreciated this film last night even more than when I saw it in a theatre 31 years ago, not excluding a hilarious trailer for a faux end-of-the-world flick that's a little too predictive of 9/11 for comfort.