Initially posted on 8.26.07: Paul Greengrass‘s The Bourne Supremacy became notorious in certain circles for the exhausting, hyper-cutting, whip-pan technique that came to be known as “Paul Greengrass shaky-cam“, and which was later explored in a groundbreaking essay titled “Chaos Cinema.” I never felt sick from this technique, but others (I don’t know how many but at least a few) did.

I experienced my first shaky-cam vomit-splatter incident during an early-ish screening of The Bourne Supremacy on 7.12.04.

Sometime during the third act of an Ultimatum showing at the Writers Guild theatre, an older woman sitting on the left side spewed on the floor. It was kind of alphabet soup mixed with pumpkin puree and chopped Spanish peanuts. A few people got up and moved away. A guy who was sitting nearby told me later it smelled pretty awful in that section of the room.

The next day I mentioned the episode to a Universal publicist in an e-mail, not as something that was necessarily caused by Paul Greengrass shakycam but as something funny that had merely “happened.” I really hadn’t put two and two together. I was simply chuckling the way a fifth-grader might chortle with his friends if the really smart girl with the freckles and the pigtails had vomited in arithmetic class.

But the Universal publicist wasn’t in fifth grade — she was coming from the office of Roy Cohn during the Army-McCarthy hearings. Her voice shrill and agitated, and she read me the riot act in order to dissuade me from mentioning the incident in the column. I felt so overwhelmed with bludgeonings and bad vibes that I caved (wimp that I am deep down) and said, “Okay, all right…good God.”

Chaos Cinema Part 1 from matze on Vimeo.