It was in an interview Shirley Manson gave to Rolling Stone that I first heard about oral sex but it was Cruel Intentions, the late ’90s remake of Dangerous Liaisons, in which I first saw the reaction it was supposed to elicit. There’s that scene, and if you’ve seen the movie, you know the scene I’m talking about. The “I’m going to kiss you down there” scene in which Ryan Phillippe’s Valmont teaches the innocent Cecile, played by Selma Blair, how to come. It’s pretty racy stuff for a teen flick, but this was 1999 when we all thought the world was ending next year so you might as well watch a movie in which Sarah Michelle Gellar sleeps with her brother.
Though you could argue this film shaped a generation’s understanding of the power game at the heart of sex, we’ve all grown up a lot since then: Moved out of our parents’ houses (for the most part,) gotten jobs (sort of,) and abandoned some of the more horrific turn-of-the-century makeup trends like brown lipstick and over-tweezed eyebrows. But after viewing the film with a few thousand other people in Brooklyn’s McCarren park last week, I can tell you anyone raised on that movie still squirms during its key scenes. It was like a collective blush washed over the crowd, Pavlov-style, when the infamous Phillippe/Blaire scene opened, and don’t even get me started about the bum rush of teenage pheromone that seemed to release into the air when Gellar teaches Blaire how to French kiss.
“It seemed like the perfect opportunity to have the “new” Williamsburg get a taste if the old, by booking the sorts of bands that made the “old” Williamsburg so exciting and attractive for all these new people and developers in the first place.”
The reason I wound up watching this cult classic in a parking lot with thousands of sweaty strangers is because it was the premier night of the SummerScreen outdoor film series. These events create a classic summer-in-the-city scene. Colorful patterned picnic blankets neatly spread out protect the masses from the hot, dirty asphalt beneath them as crews of friends — the boys in loose Dickies and t-shirts, the girls in a parade of sundresses and sandals — drink beer and eat gourmet nachos or pulled pork sandwiches from the various swanky food trucks. As with all events in New York, those with inside connections and/or superhero levels of determination get the best spots up close to the screen. But unlike most New York events, where there’s no reward for showing up early besides slightly better seats and the thrill of knowing you beat all those people behind you, this film series also comes with rad pre-film bands selected by veteran Brooklyn promoter Todd P. On this night we got the psychedelic country rock of longtime scene veteran Colin L. Orchestra as well as the deliberately seizure-inducing noise rock of Texas group Indian Jewelry.
After the film, I caught up with Brooklyn rock scene guru Todd P and asked him why, considering how busy he is with his own projects, he was willing to devote his time to book bands to open up for old movies. He doesn’t usually do sponsorship events, but these bookings help raise money for SHOWPAPER, the non-profit arts publication where he serves as executive director. “It feels like the kinds of city events in the park that I might have gone to as a kid,” he explained. “I was also interested because this is happening in ground zero Williamsburg Brooklyn — where the ‘scene’ lived 10 years ago, and now a very different place from those days, what with condo development and soaring rents and all. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to have the ‘new’ Williamsburg get a taste if the old, by booking the sorts of bands that made the “old” Williamsburg so exciting and attractive for all these new people and developers in the first place.” I love the re-colonization angle, but as I looked around at all the happy drunk people lingering in the sticky dark after the show, I thought, this is also really just about having fun, right? “Yeah, who can argue with free movies in the park surrounded by 5000 super hot people,” Todd P said. “It’s just a good time.”