The Exorcist -- Probable, not certain
As a fan (and I'm sure there are a few others), it would be a delight to go on & on about this movie - not just to gush, but to analyze, debate, reminisce, critique -- as this film demands a viewer to do. And while I typically consider it a hindrance to only talk about one scene, in this case it actually works to my advantage.
Allow me to continue... I first saw the movie on TV - with commercial interruption and edited for content (though the edits were mercifully sparse) - when I was 9 years old. Now, I needn't describe all the scary scenes from the scariest movie of all time that scared me -- but it scared me. And it was noticeable to me even then (probably because it's not that hard to miss) that the explicitly "scary parts" were so scary, that the quieter, dialogue-driven scenes were so heavy with an unbearable tension and anticipation for the next gratuitous outburst that they became the scary scenes. The movie is relentless in that way; and that's its genius: pacing.

Which brings us to That Moment - between Chris (Ellen Burstyn) and Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb) - which falls a little past the halfway mark of the movie. I was always aware of its pertinence - particularly because it's their only real scene together - but for years (decades, actually) I always thought of it as the weak point of the film. And the only reason I thought this was because I was predictably being too technical; I stubbornly insisted that the scene was structurally out of place, and that it arrived right at a moment when we didn't want a bunch of exposition, and that we were ready to move onto bigger stuff. But the funny thing that happened was that I'd focused so much of my attention on this part for so long that I began to think of it often and accidentally ended up knowing it by heart. And so, what I've determined just within the past few years, is that it's my favorite scene in the picture.

One of my biggest turn-ons is when a movie manages to finesse an expository moment into something that not only feels natural, but engrossing. Perhaps I was not perceptive enough to notice that not only does this scene accomplish that, but possibly does it better than any other scene in any other movie ever. The rhythms and language Kinderman uses to more-or-less break the news to Chris that her own daughter most likely killed Burke Dennings is so hauntingly casual that it seems insensitive -- because you know he's right! And he discloses just enough details to place you at the scene, so you can kind of imagine what bizarre, terrifying altercation transpired that night. 

But that's still not the best part - it just sets us up for it. For the remainder of the scene, Chris not only has to confront the reality of these terrible truths, but she must also mask her reactions to them. And for all of Kinderman's skillful sleuthing, he appears to be none the wiser - so little so that, before he leaves, he sheepishly asks for Chris's autograph, and can't help but enthuse over a film of hers that he admires. And really, it's That Moment that defines the scene; two magnificent performances, each with their own agenda, drawing from different emotions while simultaneously trying to hide these emotions. And really it's only for these few seconds are we able to forget the tragic nightmare upstairs - which was quite the artful trick, as the scene that immediately follows is one of the most shocking and intense events in the history of Cinema.

- Paul

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