The lights dim. Already hushed voices grow silent. Some shift in their seats, preparing themselves for the cinematic experience that lay before them. I glance at my phone, swiping the screen with my thumb to see the time – 5:40 p.m.
And so continues the Philip Seymour Hoffman 24 hour film tribute hosted by the IU Cinema.
Beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 18 with “Jack Goes Boating” at 4:00 p.m. the tribute ran until Wednesday, Feb. 19, ending with a showing of “Owning Mahogany” at 4:15 p.m. The event was free thanks to a generous donation from Jim and Roberta Sherman, and as I sat in my corner seat in the theater, waiting to watch the dark comedy “The Savages” starring the late actor, it became apparent to me that more than a few members of the Bloomington community cared enough about Hoffman to take advantage of this opportunity.
The viewing audience consisted of an assortment of people – a dozen or so college students, a couple of men in business suits, perhaps 11 loners, a few elderly couples who were dressed up in a way that made me wonder if it was their date night. Yes, clearly in his time on this planet, Philip Seymour Hoffman had impacted people with his films – impacted them enough to draw a fairly strong crowd to a 5:40 p.m. showing of a 2007 film on a cold winter night in 2014, enough to make me, a 19 year old behind in her schoolwork to push her assignments back just a little bit further to see one of his films once more in theaters.
To put it simply, the tribute was lovely. I was so pleased by Hoffman’s darkly comedic, honest performance in Tuesday’s showing of “The Savages” I came back on Wednesday to see “Capote” at 2:15 p.m. Once more, Hoffman, who immersed himself in the role to the extent that he was virtually unrecognizable at times, blew me away.
As I watched him in the “The Savages” that first night all I could keep thinking was how strongly I felt that Hoffman was wonderful. An odd word to describe a man as large and unconventional looking as Hoffman, I am aware, but nonetheless, it was the word that stuck in my mind. I smiled when his character told his sister that no, they did not need to go find their father because they were not in a Sam Shepard play; I felt my eyes become wet 45 minutes later when that same character watched rehearsals for his sister’s play, the content of which included a touching portrayal of their father’s abusive ways during their childhood. Then, while watching “Capote”, I smiled once more at the grandiose behavior of his character at parties, then later was filled with a sense of horrific shock as his character came to realize the implications of his relationship with the film’s criminals.
Hoffman’s performances were so honest, so indescribably honest and real that I became wholly absorbed in both films from start to finish, forgetting for a couple of hours that I had homework due the next day and a life of my own. And, judging on the reactions of those around me when I occasionally managed to tear my eyes away from the screen, I was not alone in these sentiments.
Then, later as I walked out of “Capote” I felt distracted, my mind still overwhelmed by the content of the film and Hoffman’s portrayal of the infamous author. I was a bit bleary-eyed in the way that one is after being in the dark for a couple of hours, but I was alert enough to still hear the quiet but firm voice of the girl walking in front of me, her face earnest as she turned to face her friend.
“The film industry was robbed the night he died,” she said, her words hanging in the air for a moment before drifting away. Her friend nodded, agreeing silently.
I can’t say I disagree.
The IU Cinema hosts many festivals, tributes, and discussions with directors throughout the year that are just as amazing as this one. If you're interested in attending a specific film or would like to learn more about the festivals that the IU Cinema is hosting this year, click here.