Swing Time

If you live with roommates there's always a chance for bad timing to create an awkward situation. At one point I was watching Blow Up in the living room, and I was completely undisturbed for the first half hour, which mostly sets up the main character, a photographer who lives in London in the early 60s. My spidey-sense started to tingle when he started to do a photo shoot in his home studio with two hot models. Sure enough, right as the horsing around for the camera turned into threesome my roommate walked into the room. I tried to explain that this wasn't porn, this was an art movie by a revered Italian filmmaker, but that wasn't quite enough to pull the arched eyebrow back into it's resting position.

Even more awkward was when I was watching the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo in my room. That movie begins really slowly: there's a lot of focus on a reporter who is investigating a billionaire, so there's a lot of talking in a foreign language about financial matters. If you overheard it, it wouldn't mean anything to you; it didn't mean anything to me and I was reading the damn subtitles. But then at some point there is a graphic rape scene, and right as the scene started one of my roommates came down to do some laundry. Given how thin the wall was between my room and the laundry room and how loud the screams coming from my TV were they had to have heard something. I couldn't decide what to do: immediately stop the movie and explain the noises coming out of my speakers? Pause it as soon as I could and hope he somehow managed to avoid hearing the blatant screams and grunts coming from my room? Pretend that the whole thing never happened? All of a sudden I couldn't wait for the film to return to the boring mumbo-jumbo about corrupt capitalists that I had already grown bored of.

But today's experience with Swing Time is a completely different situation. My limited research said that Swing Time is considered to be the best of the Astaire-Rogers dance movies. Since I had missed their oeuvre entirely I wanted to give it a try. The beginning of the movie is more or less tame, as you would expect from a movie from 1936. It's so sleepy, in fact, that the closest we come to tension in the first hour is when Lucky, the gambler played by Astaire, wins thousands of dollars in an underground casino in a fishy way, but instead of putting his head in a vice the casino owner just shrugs his shoulders and pays up. The biggest threat of awkwardness was having somebody walk by and overhear one of those treacly crooner ballads coming out of my room, but that's pretty tame all things considered.

Everything was going fine... and then the blackface number started. I was not prepared for this; I hadn't read enough about the film ahead of time to know that there was a "Mr. Bojangles" song and dance routine towards the end. I immediately panicked, because I was like: oh my God, I don't want anyone to think that I watch movies where white people dance in blackface! But then I realized: oh, wait, you have to be able to see this to realize that it is terrible. From outside of my room this just sounds like tapdancing. I started to calm down when I realized that this was a crime I was going to get away with.

The other two roommate interruptions were more embarrassing than shocking - I kind of knew what those movies were about when I decided to watch them,  so I was prepared to own up to whatever would come up in a film set in swinging London / brutish Sweden. But Swing Time was an actual shock: by that point in the movie I had been lulled into complacency, so the sight of something that is deeply taboo caught me flatfooted. But it was ultimately a better situation, because if I kept my mouth shut I wasn't going to have to answer any awkward questions. Which is kind of fitting, because if I remember correctly the bad guys get caught in Blow Up and the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, but Fred Astaire is still Lucky at the end of Swing Time.

Winner: Draw

Swing Time on IMDB