photo manipulation by nacrowe
i first became aware of THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (20TH CENTURY FOX, 1975) film sophomore year of prep school in MASSACHUSETTS. i remember trying to watch the movie when all of these kids in my dorm would keep talking over it and doing dance moves and acting out a whole independent narrative. i quickly realized what my peers were doing was insanely intricate and it dawned on me that this was the point of the film. later i realized that this was rooted 4th wall break was rooted in the original play, where audience participation was encouraged, but watching this all unfold did blow my mind at the time.
i can't think of another example of a film that thrives on this kind of behavior. closest i can think of is watching a film at theatre in NYC, where people will yell stuff like "BITCH DON'T OPEN THAT DOOR" at the perfect opportune time. yes, that does take you out of the scene, but in my opinion such enriches the movie going experience. its like getting free commentary from an unreliable narrator.
i think part of the reason the interactive nature of the film works so well is that fact that it is a MUSICAL. an unconventional one at that which utilized ROCK MUSIC, something of a novelty at the time, but it does play to the genre expectations. in AMERICAN MUSICALS, when a character or a group sing a song you are transported temporarily to a world that is outside the realm of the narrative. what you witness is a projection of a character's mood and aspirations on the scenery around them. its a trick that is unique to this genre and is partly why i have gravitated to such over the years. some of my favorite films are musicals such as CABARET and THE BANDWAGON, and they all play to this convention.
in a sense THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is a series of these projected fantasies intercut with brief scenes of dialogue to tie them together. the point of the film, in my opinion, is this idea of transcendence. transcendence of gender, sexuality, space, time, etc. not to overdue this concept but through genre conventions of the MUSICAL, these characters have transcended their own individual identity. and to me that describes the transformative quality of ROCK AND ROLL when done correctly. that rejuvenating, transcendent power of collective unity in music.
the fact that as an audience, we too are involved with this dissolution of the basic relationship between voyeur and participant that defines the movie going experience also makes sense. i can only imagine at the time what a revelation this film was. it still is.
i could go on, but this is a must-watch film, especially with participants. also, TIM CURRY is a god.