search

The Room

The Room

Every now and then, film lovers develop a belated cult for a production that it is brutally clueless yet endearingly inept. Flicks such as "Reefer Madness," "Plan 9 from Outer Space," "Valley of the Dolls" and "Showgirls" achieved a level of cultural significance strictly for being so far removed from the basic tenets of artistic quality and intellectual depth. They could be called anti-classics – they have the love of the audience, if not its respect, yet their failures are cheered as if they were pure victories.

Joining this exclusive club is the first cult movie for this century: Tommy Wiseau's 2003 "The Room." Barely acknowledged during its initial single-screen Los Angeles theatrical engagement, "The Room" has gained an astonishing word-of-mouth cred that has helped fuel sold-out midnight movie screenings – and that's no mean feat, considering the film has been available for years on DVD and through bootlegged downloads. There is even an e-commerce site that offers t-shirts and knickknacks related to this weird offering.

On the surface, "The Room" is fairly simple: a San Francisco love triangle between a banker, his fickle fiancé and the man's hunky best friend. We know this takes place in San Francisco thanks to travelogue-worthy shots that are inserted between most of the key scenes – and that's helpful, since that is the only connection between "The Room" and any recognizable piece of reality.

Quite frankly, "The Room" exists in its own sphere of energy. Nothing connected to its characters, dialogue or actions has any parallel with the quotidian considerations of our daily world. People abruptly appear and disappear without warning, ground shaking pronouncements are made casually before being immediately forgotten, and the web of human interactions are boiled down to sex accompanied with a light jazz soundtrack (for male-female relations) and fisticuffs or underhand football tossing (for all-male bonding). Conversations consist almost entirely of non-sequiturs, which leads the viewer to wonder if the people of "The Room" suffer from an acute form of Attention Deficit Disorder or if Wiseau (who penned the screenplay) only became acquainted with English the day before shooting began.

There is also the problem of Wiseau's performance as the betrayed banker whose world collapses in the course of a few days. A vampiric presence with ghostly pale skin and long jet-black hair, Wiseau addresses his surroundings in a sing-song voice laced with leaden Eastern European accent. His emotional range is stuck in neutral, so every line of dialogue – from his playful "Hi, Doggy!" greeting to a bulldog that is inexplicably sitting on a floral shop counter to his gut-wrenching "Everybody betrayed me! I fed up with this world!" – is delivered in the same low-level tone.

If Wiseau is unable to direct himself into a performance, his abilities to harvest genuine acting from his ensemble is far less successful. Most of the actors appear to have been inspired by the marionettes and automatons of Disneyland's "It's a Small World" exhibit – one-note stereotypes (the menacing drug dealer, the busybody mother, the supercilious psychologist, the giddy best friend) that keep hitting their one note key in the vain hope of turning caricatures into characters.

And yet, "The Room" is such a well-meaning goof that it is impossible to hate the film. Wiseau's endeavor could be viewed as a cinematic equivalent of folk art – primitive in design and execution, yet strangely charming in spite of its obvious shortcomings. It is a prime example of enthusiasm outrunning talent. Though, ultimately, the film's continued cult popularity might suggest that Wiseau is getting the last laugh – even if he doesn't quite comprehend why people are laughing.

— Phil Hall, Film Snobbery

The Room

Thu & Fri November 1 & 2, 2012, 8:00 only, VAC Basement Auditorium (1B20)

USA, 2003, Color, 99 min., 35mm, 1.85:1, Rated R • official site

recommend

Tickets

10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.

Parking

Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.

RTD Bus

Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Virtual titles to stream from home

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

Z-briefs
: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Sprocket Damage
: Sprocket Damage digs deep(ish) into current and classic films and film-related subjects to bring to you insightful, humorous, and enlightening perspectives on the industry.

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists

Sun Sep 26, 2021

Highway Patrolman

At Muenzinger Auditorium

Wed Sep 29, 2021

The Mummy

At Muenzinger Auditorium

more on 35mm...