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"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Ya wanna see something really scary?

On Saturday night I went to see "Twilight Zone: The Movie" at IFC Film Center's midnight series (35mm print!), with RogerEbert.com contributor Simon Abrams.

At the start of the second episode, Steven Spielberg's segment, a man came into the theater, sat in the front row, and began laughing hysterically—cackling, so loudly that you couldn't hear anything except his laughter; I've never heard anyone in real life make noises like this man was making—at everything. Everything. Sometimes he laughed when nothing of any significance was happening. Also pointing at the screen. On some kind of powerful drug, listening to his synapses pop like Chinese firecrackers, I guess. Or mentally ill? I don't know. Not in control of himself, in any event; not in a mental place where he should have gone to see a movie in a theater.

As Simon later observed, at first everyone in the theater was too jaded or intimidated to approach the man...but then somebody in the second row leaned over and asked him to be quiet. The man laughed hysterically at that, too.

The complaining audience member left the theater. Then he came back in. An usher followed—a burly guy with long black hair and a mustache.

The usher told the guy to come with him now. The man refused.

The usher left.

About two minutes later he came back in and repeated, politely but firmly, "Come with me, you can't be in here anymore."

The man laughed hysterically and waved his arms.

The usher gently but relentlessly pulled the man out of his seat and dragged him out of the theater.

By his wrists.

The man cackled the entire time. "Ah HAH HAH HAHHHHHH!!!!" We could hear his laughter fade as the usher dragged him into the lobby.

Then everyone in the theater had a good shared laugh of relief and enjoyed the rest of the film.

Afterward I saw the usher standing outside of the theater. I said, "You, sir, are a bad motherf----r. I've never seen anything like that. You should open up a school to train other people how to do that."

He thanked me, rather sheepishly. As Simon and I headed toward the subway, he called after us, "I'm sorry it took me so long."

The entire episode lasted five or six minutes from start to finish.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is customer service as it should be.




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