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Movie Answer Man (02/12/1995)

Q. I recall a rumor that "The Exorcist" used subliminal messaging to affect the audience. When I saw it on its initial theatrical release, I passed out at one point--and I don't faint easily. It was early in the film when she was having her brain x-rayed: The scene showed Regan with a needle on the end of a tube stuck in her neck, and there's a gyrating X-ray machine and the machine-gun-like sound of sheets of film rapidly advancing. I recoil at the thought that a movie could have such an impact on me without some kind of unfair advantage. Maybe the hype surrounding the film and the crowded theater set me up for it. When I came to, I noticed that I'd slumped down and jammed my shins against the metal edge of the seat in front of me. They were cut and bleeding. Probably one of the few times that watching a movie led to physical injury. (Tom Norris, Braintree, Mass.)

A. A couple of years ago at the Hawaii Film Festival I did a frame-by-frame analysis of "The Exorcist" with Owen Roizman, its cinematographer. Using freeze-frame on a laserdisc, he revealed two single frames in which a satanic face is superimposed over the face of Linda Blair, who played Regan. The audience was pretty impressed, but there were no injuries.

Q. During the credits of every movie, we see the "Foley Editor." Exactly what are these? And are there movies in which viewers can "really notice" them at work? (Randy Johnson, Newport Beach, Calif.)

A. According to Ephraim Katz's magnificent new "Film Encyclopedia," Foley artists work on the sound track after production, specializing in sounds made by people (kisses, footsteps, etc). If they do their jobs well, you do not notice them at all.

Q. I recall reading that Jodie Foster had AWFULLY nice teeth for a backwoods girl. Just wondering if you shared this critique. (Nick Stadler, Potomac, Md.)

A. She has nice teeth even for a Hollywood star.

Q. I was glad to see your favorable review of "Nell." In your review you said it was hard to believe people could live so isolated as Nell and her mother did. Until September of this year I lived 20 miles south of Robbinsville, N.C. (where the movie was filmed) and some people in that area of the country do indeed live in almost total seclusion. Some take great pride in the fact that they only come off of their mountain once or twice a year for supplies. Most probably collect some type of government handout but there are many who grow, make and hunt for items they need and for items to barter with. They chose a perfect town in which to film "Nell"--a case of "art imitating life" and vice-versa. (Roxanne Diesel, Simi Valley, Calif.)

A. I related to the movie more as a fable than as something that could literally be true, but you're correct that the director, Michael Apted, found a location that was so evocative it added mood to the whole story.

Q. Saw your item complaining about American theaters. For your reference: In Taiwan, in most theaters, they turn the projector off and the lights on as soon as the movie is over. They cut the credits so they can empty the theater and get the next crowd in as soon as possible to increase profits. Sometimes they even send the noisy cleaning crew into to start their work BEFORE even reaching the climax or ending of the film!!! Also, before each movie begins, they play Taiwan's national anthem. which they are constantly updating so it'll stay fresh. It's been jazzed up so many times that it now has a reggae beat! (I am on the radio in Japan and Taiwan as "Kamasami Kong.") (Bob Zix, Honolulu)

A. Even as I decided to run your letter, I started to cringe. Many American theater owners may be inspired to adopt these practices. Our own national anthem, by the way, apparently has the lyrics, Know what time it is??? It's refreshment time!!!.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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