Monday, March 10, 2008

My Memory Of Not Seeing Henry And June

Tim Lucas has a really nice post on Philip Kaufman’s Henry and June (1991) over at Video Watchblog that everyone should check out when they get a chance. Reading it reminded me that I really need to go back and give this film another look as it has been well over a decade since I have seen it.
I remember pretty vividly when the film came to Evansville, Indiana during my Senior year of high school. I was a huge fan of both Kaufman’s Invasion Of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Unbearable Lightness Of Being (1988) and had greatly been anticipating Henry And June. Making the film even more appealing was the fact that I had also just discovered Miller’s Tropic Of Cancer and Nin’s Delta Of Venus the year before and was nursing a serious crush on Uma Thurman.
It was raining the Saturday afternoon I drove down to the one theater in Evansville that was willing to show NC-17 films. It was a small two screen theater in the downtown area that had been there for years and I wasn’t too familiar with it so I recall going early in order to find a parking spot. I found one on the street because parking garages have always made me nervous and ID in hand I excitedly walked into the theater for the showing.
The first thing I noticed was that there wasn’t any real promotional material up for the film and it was listed on the marquee but in much smaller letters than the other film they had showing. Walking up to the ticket counter I noticed a hand written sign that said no one under 18 would be allowed into Henry and June which I thought was odd since it was rated NC-17. I asked for a ticket and showed my ID and was promptly denied admission for being just 17.
My initial reaction to this was disbelief and I pointed out that the rating was NC-17 not NC-18 but the rather pompous kid behind the counter refused to budge. I saw some movement in the back office and asked to speak to the management figuring the kid was just being difficult. A rather stodgy older gentleman came out to see what all the fuss was about and I attempted to explain the rating and how at 17 I should be let in. At this point I was starting to panic as the film was getting ready to start and I had to be at work afterwards so I couldn’t go to a later show.
To make a long story short I never got to see Henry and June on the big screen. The manager of the theater explained he knew what the rating meant but he had decided to make the cut off age 18 instead of 17. He couldn’t articulate why but his disapproving aura made it clear he didn’t want to show the film in the first place. I walked out of the theater totally dejected and it was gone after a week.
I saw the film when it hit video but I have always suspected that my opinion of it would have always been higher had I seen it on the big screen that afternoon. It’s funny but I don’t really remember much about it…just moments really with one image of Uma Thurman walking sadly down a hallway with some sort of puppet being the most vivid. Tim’s post makes me want to watch it again and I agree with him that a Special Edition would be very nice.


Rogue Spy 007 said...

Thanks for sharing that story with us here. I never saw it at the theater. It didn't play around here at all. I had to wait until it came out on video. Originally I saw it because I had a huge crush on Uma Thurman after seeing Dangerous Liasons. It's been ages since I've seen it though. I'm going to have to give it another watch soon.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith...Ah, Uma in Dangerous Liasons. I still remember the audible gasp people let out during one of her scenes in that film...I really love her early work. Jennifer Eight is a real favorite almost no one else digs...

Cinebeats said...

This is probably my favorite Kaufman film and I know we've discussed it before here on your blog. I never had the chance to see it in a theater myself, but since Henry Miller is my favorite American writer and Anais Nin is one of my favorite French writers, I'm sure that colored my view of the film and gave it a hug appeal for me that others might not appreciate at first glance. The entire cast was terrific, but my favorite performance was from the beautiful Maria de Medeiros as Nin. She really captured the essence of the Anais and seemed to understand the writer intimately. After reading this and Tim's post I have the urge to watch the film again.

Mr. Peel said...

Chiming in here because I actually did see it in the theater--at a two-screen in suburban New York and it's tough to imagine such a booking happening today. I remember not liking it very much but I was cynical about so many things back then. All these years later I remember very little apart from some of the power of Uma Thurman's performance. Now I want to take another look at it.