Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Road to Perdition

Seen: 2002.07.15   ¶   Reviewed: 2002.07.16

One had a bit of a surprise upon entering the theatre: Mr. X was there as usual, but accompanied by a friend from work, Mr. Y. Three people at a Movie Night!

And one had a bit of an ordeal at Guest Services. The “playa” at work on this noticeably unbusy night was bored out of his mind. He handed us three reflectors with the socks still on. We were picky and handed two of them back, which annoyed him. I mentioned that playaz should Windex the fingerprints off the panels between shows. I haven’t been instructed to do that, he told me. Would you like to speak with my manager about it? Oh, I see – we’re already escalating things.

Then there was the ID issue. Tonight’s scheme was: We hand over ID but don’t give our phone numbers. My ID was enough for all three of us. I pointed out that the system changes every time and is in fact different from last time. “Would you like me to call my manager for you?”

I see.

Hardly anyone in the house, not unexpectedly. (Monday night, serious drama, etc.) Two teenage boys were fascinated by our discussions (somewhat loud, since two of the three of us are hard-of-hearing) about which seats were best. We managed to get the reflectors set up (why is mine the only one that won’t stay horizontal?) and someone behind us actually asked what they were. So we told them.

And then, from over my other shoulder, this older couple and their friend chimed in. “Subtitles,” he said. “Captions. Not subtitles, captions.” Then there was the expected discussion: But you can speak English! Well, the captions are in English. Captions are always in the same language. Subtitles are a translation. So why are you doing it? You’re not... Hard-of-hearing? No, but my friends are. Ahh, she said. It all made sense for her then. (Did she think I was doing it out of solidarity?)

Anyway, for a couple of minutes we had the entire midsection of the cinema chatting freely, across rows of unfilled seats, about cinema accessibility. Gets the word out, doesn’t it?

I learned my lesson from Murder by Numbers, though admittedly I could have defied this lesson with MIIB: Pre-cynicism unfairly prejudices one’s response to a film.

I expected a full-on Serious Drama® featuring Tom Hanks (and remember, he was in drag in Bosom Buddies). I anticipated repeated blows to the head by the Seriousness of the Drama. A very important picture, far more important than Amerikanski Beauty, adored by sentimental middle-aged women everywhere. (Who could not identify with Annette Bening?) There remain, nonetheless, a host of reasons to hate it.

And thus a host of reasons to hate Road to Perdition in advance. Even the title is portentous, in an overhanded Lord of the Rings–esque manner.

Surprisingly, “R2P” actually is serious and is a drama. It’s also cold, mannered, and an apt transformation from the original comic book. Is this indeed the first successful cinematic comic book, in which scenes replete with live motion resonate with the visual devices of the comic-book pane? Rain in so intense a downpour it seems immobile. The dripping fedoras. The single sentence of text on a full-frame letter held in the hand. Medium shots that read like individual panes.

R2P echoes the tradition of Interview with the Vampire in following a haphazard self-organized family of underworld denizens whose doomed lives are riven with death and blood and limned by sadness. Young Michael Sullivan, moreover, acts as raconteur, cognate with Interviewer. Distant parallel societies depicted on the icy edge of dispassion, sangfroid in a literal way. Road to Perdition and Interview with the Vampire stand to make a fine double bill.

Tom Hanks, jowly and decked head to toe in wool, has never looked better. Child actors were adequately cast for a change.

Mr. Y is not wild about the violence in the movie. Neither am I, but I live with it. Descriptions sometimes were in advance of gunfire, giving me a chance to close my eyes. I’m not kidding!

Caption quality

Concerted effort to embody the Irish (stereotypical?) musical score: (Uilleann pipes play Irish melody). No, I don’t know what Uilleann pipes are, either. (They are a Celtic wind instrument.)


Description quality

Enormous shock: The narrator is not Miles Neff! And it’s a narratrix, Pat Lentz! (She also narrates some DVS-described TV shows.) Monsters, Inc. also had a female narrator; I am told that union rules have prevented the use of a wider variety of narrator voices. Lentz has a more active and interested delivery style. It’s fine, just unexpected.

“The picture fades to white” and “The image of Michael fades away into sunlight”: Can pictures fade to white? to sunlight?

“As the beam lights Peter’s face again, he lays back down”: Common usage, but technically incorrect. He lies back down.

Sullivan peruses a pile of cheques. “Each is made out to Connor Rooney in various dollar amounts.” There was ample time to mention a few, because the description leaves us wondering. ($300 and $800 were two denominations I remembered.)

I know I just finished kvetching about it. But really, the end of the film is not untouching, and was made more so by the sensitive description “The image of Michael fades away into sunlight,” which united with the visible image to form a gestalt. One had the little frog in the throat. So sue me.

There was not enough time to read all necessary opening credits. Normally, DVS’s very clever way to handle this is to introduce them at the end with “Remaining opening credits,” read them out, then continue with “Closing credits” and a reading of those. Here we were just told “Credits” and the two sets were mishmashed.


No worries.

Exit interview

Wasn’t the bored, uninterested playa surprised when I walked up to the desk and asked to see the floor manager. The what manager? The floor manager. The manager on duty. May I ask what it’s regarding, sir? he asked, knowing he was in shit. I give feedback after every showing, I tell him.

A young man comes over. Within seconds he’s almost shaking. With the playa leaning over the desk hanging on our every word, I calmly report everything that happened when we tried to check out the equipment. I asked the manager what he believed the correct sign-in procedure is: We sign in ourselves, and playa looks at but does not keep ID. And there’s supposed to be a newfangled form that we fill out, which the manager could not actually find. The manager admitted that the advice changes regularly and they had received new instructions in the last week.

The playa was, I’m sure, very surprised indeed not only to witness me document everything he had done wrong right before his eyes (had he been sitting down and not visibly eavesdropping, I might have been more lenient), and was doubtless extra-surprised when I told the manager I give feedback after every show even if the playa I’m complaining about is standing right there listening.

We hit the road and, I’m sure, the manager went to a quiet room to decompress.

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