Tingle-itious (Film column)

Kyle Smith

Have you ever cried over a painting, poem or book?

The correct answer is no. If you cry over a painting, you’re lying. If you cry over a poem, you’re pretentious. If you cry reading a book, it better be “Where the Red Fern Grows.”

When I was in middle school, I loved but one thing: Led Zeppelin. And as I learned to love the Internet and discovered the wonder of listservs, I joined “Digital Graffiti,” the Led Zeppelin listserv.

Every day my mailbox was flooded with messages from some of the biggest losers I’ll never meet — the toilet bowl scum, nay, the bitter aftertaste, the Vanilla Coke of American pop culture. With widespread cult phenomena like “Star Wars” or “Star Trek,” the nerds are somewhat explained and understood because part of the reason they’re obsessed is so they can revel in the community other nerds with similar obsessions. A Trekkie can go from Pittsburgh to Peoria and quickly sniff out his herd.

But when I used to post to this listserv occasionally, I always treated my emails with the delicacy of a message in a bottle, hoping some pretty girl somewhere might respond. Instead, I met guys with names like Chuck and Randy. This was also back when the bulk of listserv e-mails weren’t about trying to get off the listserv.

Anyway, in a fit of inspiration I wrote an e-mail asking these plumbers, bartenders and thoughtfully unemployed men their feelings on what I termed “tingle moments” in Led Zeppelin songs. I defined a “tingle moment” as exactly that — a brief point in a song that sends tingles up and down your spine, but in a decidedly good, non-violent way. More “kiss-on-the-lips” tingle than “excruciating spinal tap” tingle.

You’d have thought these dorks had crowned me their king. The “Tingle” discussion went on for weeks. Men would revise their list of top Tingle moments on a nearly constant basis. I found myself reading with rapt attention messages like: “Tingle Moment #3: It used to be when Plant crowed ‘Valhalla, I am coming’ in ‘Immigrant Song,’ now it’s definitely the third drum solo in ‘Achilles’ Last Stand.'”

It is with this extensive exposition that I draw the foregone conclusion that, although it is okay to cry during certain films (depending on your gender and personal opinion of Robin Williams), there is nothing more moving as far as movies go than the Tingle moment.

I’ve talked previously about sequences that attract us to the same films over and over again. Think of the Tingle moment as the actual trigger in those sequences. “Before Sunset,” heretofore the best movie I’ve seen in 2004 (and just released on DVD), features a number of Tingle moments. The most moving one (for me) is at the end of the film when Julie Delpy awkwardly dances in front of Ethan Hawke.

When I saw “Before Sunset,” I wondered how this sort of scene comes to fruition. Does director Richard Linklater have such control over the medium, and the basic workings of human emotion, that he staged and edited the scene as such for maximum tingleness? The Tingle is such a delicate, unpredictable feeling, but the confidence and emotions running through “Before Sunset” construct a number of Tingles that arguably give the film the realism that makes it so moving.

There are those that Tingle too hard. Look no further than every movie trailer you’ve ever seen. Trailers are specifically designed to elicit feelings greater than their whole — a two minute trailer needs to convey the glory of a two-and-half-hour epic. As a result, we get a swelling soundtrack and dramatic snippets of scenes that are much longer and much more boring. Hollywood understands the lure of the Tingle, but like it does with so many things, has no clue how to harness its power.

I remember fast-forwarding to my favorite Tingle moments on Zeppelin songs, only to find the power of the moment was robbed without the buildup. The same is true for the movies — as proved by the trailers, such as the super-sappy “Finding Neverland” trailer (which will probably end up being a fine film).

It’s something only the cinema can do, really — totally pull us into one moment and make it almost as if we’ve truly shared something with the actors on screen, the creators of the film, and better yet, the audience members with whom we experience the film. 4

Communication junior Kyle Smith is the PLAY film columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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