If you've ever been to a movie at the Museum of Modern Art (or Cinema Village or Film Forum) you may have encountered a cinemaniac. Obsessed and cantankerous, they are masters of the shush.
I once witnessed them nearly lynch an elderly woman for the crime of loudly unwrapping a hard candy. If you go to a movie here, you have to submit to the madness. Enjoy it. This is where all the eccentrics who've been driven from the streets of Manhattan have washed up.
I don't go to the MoMA movies as often as I used to, but I hear those characters are still there. What makes them so dyspeptic?
I suspect they shush so violently because, like many anxious obsessive-compulsives, they likely suffer from misophonia, an extreme sensitivity to annoying sounds. Researchers have also found a relationship between misophonia and the schizotypal personality. Schizotypals are your garden variety eccentrics. And they're a vanishing breed in New York City.
These are people who don't function well in a hyper-regulated city custom-made for the wealthy and the mainstream. They require rent control and stabilization. They require the freedom to be unusual, even difficult. They need a city that tolerates odd behavior. Really, they are some of the last of the New York characters. So next time one of them scolds you at the movies, be grateful. You've been touched by an endangered species.
But be careful. They might get a little out of control. "If you don't get up and beat the person up or threaten them or something, then you're going to actually have the film be ruined," says one in the 2002 film Cinemania. Watch it here in its entirety (bonus--it's New York before Bloomberg's erasure, filled with some vanished places and sensibilities):
Roger Ebert wrote about these New Yorkers:
"These are not crazy people. Maladjusted and obsessed, yes, but who's to say what normal is? I think it makes more sense to see movies all day than to golf, play video games or gamble. Not everyone agrees. I know people like these, and I understand their desire to be absorbed in the darkness and fantasy... They really, really like movies. They cry during them. One stumbled out of 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' and walked for blocks in the rain, weeping. 'A commitment to cinema means one must have a technically deviant lifestyle.'"