New York remains second only to Paris among the best cities in the world for repertory filmgoing. The city’s temples of revival cinema attract all ages and all stripes of cinephiles — and all levels of mental stability and rage control. Among the fortresses of moviedom’s past, MoMA has the particular distinction of offering its spectators the possibility of witnessing a bare-knuckle brawl. Twice last year at two of the museum’s theaters, altercations, both involving the same person, nearly escalated into physical violence during films that could not have been more incongruous given the bloodlust they almost inspired: the Ginger Rogers–starring marital melodrama Kitty Foyle (1940) and Cover Girl (1944), a Technicolor musical with Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly. At issue was the instigator’s perceived lack of decorum among his seatmates — too much talking during the former, not turning off a smartphone during an introduction for the latter. And yet, as alarming as it was to witness this unhinged behavior (both that of the antagonist and the antagonized), there was something perversely admirable about how far one movie-mad viewer was willing to go to preserve…his movie madness.
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