One day soon I’m going to tell the moon about ‘The Crying Game’

October 26, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
Oct. 26, 2013

Recently, I happened across a mention on Twitter of The Crying Game, writer/director Neil Jordan’s 1992 film about a British soldier captured by IRA terrorists.

In truth, I don’t remember much about the film — except for the Big Twist, which I will proceed to spoil shortly. (Consider this your final warning; proceed at your own risk.) I do distinctly remember the circumstances under which I saw the film, because it was a rather…awkward situation.

That’s right: I saw The Crying Game with my grandma S. and an attractive woman whom I’ll call T. In case you‘re not familiar with the film, it is most definitely not a family movie. About midway through the picture, a character is revealed to be either a transvestite or transsexual. (I can’t remember which; it’s been a long time since I saw the film, and as I said, I don’t remember much about it.)

This revelation occurs happens after the two main characters have engaged in what I recall as being a fairly graphic on-screen sex act. (At least, it certainly was for the time…and the company I was in.)

To reiterate, this does not make for good family fare; nor did it make good conversational fodder for the awkward, nerdy young person that I was back then. (For the record, these days, I am slightly less awkward and nerdy, and markedly less young, than I was at the time.)

But this afternoon at the movies was memorable for reasons other than just the fare or the company. I glanced at my companions a few times over the course of the picture. (I remember sitting on the left, with my grandma in the middle and T. on the right.) Rather to my surprise, and somewhat to my relief, my grandmother fell asleep at some point during the film.

Afterward, when our trio returned to the sunlit streets of New York City, T., S. and I shared our impressions of the film. Much to my incredulity, my grandma had a surprisingly firm grasp on the narrative.

I expressed my astonishment, saying something along the lines of, “Grandma, I had trouble following the story, and I saw the entire thing! How come you know what went on when you dozed off during part of the movie?”

S.’s reply confounded me further. She casually said that it had been obvious to her what was happening, despite her mid-movie nap.

My grandmother was a fairly worldly person — no country mouse she!

There was yet another factor that made this moviegoing experience still more awkward. We watched The Crying Game at an establishment that is now called the Angelika Film Center. It’s located at 18 W. Houston St. in Manhattan, and at least some of its theaters are underground. 

Literally underground. As in, its walls seem to be only a few feet from the subway line. Which means that every few minutes, a train rumbles by, intruding on the sound and gently shaking the seats.

I found this especially distracting because not long before I watched The Crying Game, I had been in Northern California for the Loma Prieta temblor — the great earthquake that interrupted the 1989 World Series. Every time a train passed by, I would tense up; a part of my body anticipated being shaken around like a cucumber in a blender. At least a few times during the movie, I pictured the ceiling and walls of the theater crumbling during a catastrophic disaster.

So, yeah. This was quite the awkward film screening for me.

It turns out, though, that there’s one small final twist to my story. I had a fairly strong recollection of having seen The Crying Game in 1990. That would have been a matter of months after the Oct. 17 earthquake that killed 63 people, caused perhaps $7 billion in property damage and shook up baseball’s so-called Battle of the Bay. That temporal proximity, after all, would have amply explained my sensitivity to the rumbling subway.

But before I started writing this blog post, I surfed on over to the Internet Movie Database. It immediately dispelled one of my illusions: The Crying Game was first released in September 1992 and saw general release in the United States that winter.

What can I say? That viewing of The Crying Game is forever stuck in my memory. But memory doesn’t always capture every detail reliably.


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