The thing about classic films is, although they're deemed "classic," very few people have acutally seen them. Case in point is New York's River to River Festival and its graciously free showing of The Seven Year Itch on The Elevated Acre in the Financial District. While the film may have been helmed by the directorial king of classics himself, Billy Wilder, the only piece of visual information sustained in anyone's mind is Miss Monroe's billowing white dress over the grate of a passing subway.
Watching the film amid an audience of Seven Year Itch virgins was not unlike explaining the psychological intricacies of Giuletta of the Spirits to someone who watches The Hills. Comments included, "...a simpler kind of humor in the fifties." I give the person credit for knowing which decade it was made in though. Still, after hearing this, a fantasy materialized in my mind, wherein Billy Wilder paper cuts members of the audience with his screenplay and Marilyn takes on the rest by strangling them with her infamous chiffon dress. No such fantasy came to light and I contrived to sit against the cement slab step of The Elevated Acre wishing I had just stayed home to watch it on DVD rather than endure the unappreciative sentiments of NYU students who have the social gall to carry around a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo.
Then again, seeing The Seven Year Itch in a crowd of modern men and women got me thinking about the general overratedness of this 1955 Marilyn Monroe vehicle. Had the audience been watching a Wilder film that better stands the test of time, like, say, Ace in the Hole, would they have left that patch of grass at the end of the evening wanting to fortify their film collections with the work of Billy Wilder? Or is it simply about being able to say that, yes, they have seen the scene that every American comes out of the womb somehow aware of?
The elements of annoyance escalated when, at the precise second her dress lifts, most audience members felt inclined to take a picture of it. And this is where a serious sociological question must be asked: Is there any point in watching, listening to, or reading anything when every portion has been extracted and highlighted, preordaining what we're supposed to know and like best?