Photo/IllutrationFans of Freddie Mercury, holding hand-made fans, come to see “Bohemian Rhapsody” in Tokyo’s Hibiya district. (The Asahi Shimbun)

“The next showing will be a sing-along,” a theater attendant informed me when I went to see “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a film about the British rock band Queen and its vocalist Freddie Mercury.

For each song, lyrics were superimposed on the screen.

The audience was reserved at first. But around midway into the film, more and more people began to swing into action--singing aloud, stomping their feet, clapping their hands and shouting “Freddie!”

I, too, found myself unable to resist singing along to familiar numbers.

Similar forms of showing appear to be becoming gradually popular.

With the animated film “Frozen,” the audience was invited to sing along, while showings of “Shin Godzilla” allowed screaming and yelling by the audience.

Perhaps the purpose is to draw more people to movie theaters at a time when anyone can watch a video on a PC or smartphone.

Right after the end of World War II, iconic film critic Nagaharu Yodogawa (1909-1998) sneaked into a screening meant for U.S. military personnel.

He recalled in his book that when Frank Sinatra started crooning in one scene, everyone stood up, whistled and danced to the music. A U.S. soldier, who was Yodogawa's acquaintance, was embarrassed by the rowdiness of the audience. But Yodogawa assured him, “This is wonderful.”

I understand that classic “yakuza” (gangster) movies starring Ken Takakura (1931-2014) had the audience shouting “Ken-san, watch out!” when the hero, played by Takakura, was in danger.

Back then, movie fans needed no prodding to react vocally to scenes that stirred them. In that sense, I feel a little saddened that we have since become conditioned not to do so without official encouragement.

Nov. 24 is the anniversary of Freddie’s premature death in 1991 at the age of 45. Probably singing and getting fired up over his biopic is the best tribute we can pay to this musician who could send his fans into a frenzy.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.