Monday, November 1, 2021

Living Your Inner Life in Public: The Lure of the Love of Film

A couple of things, movie-wise, have been converging around me lately. Powerful things...things that are hard to put into words. But, I'll give it a go.

First, I've been watching a whole lot of films starring my favorite actor. I think I'll leave him out of it for now, since I've written so much about him. I've been moved to tears (I'm crying a lot know how it can be) not by any specific film, but by coming to understand what makes a performer an artist. It's generosity. They can be the most talented, but without generosity there can be no greatness. The ones who hold back, who keep something apart, you can have them. Now, can you think of that performer who you love, who speaks to you in a language of feeling, who takes your breath away by willing to expose the most deeply felt emotions that real people struggle to hide? Then insert that name in your heart, for they are generous with their gifts. They sprinkle the ordinary with stardust.

Second, I actually went to the movies for the first time in well over a year*. What brought me to tears this time was not the movie itself but the coming attractions. So many exciting thing to come! I've been so insulated in my home watching movies this past year and a half that I forgot what it felt like to sit in a theater. With people. Watching those trailers, I realized there are those out there still creating stories meant to move us, excite us, amuse and thrill us. In this time of such civil ugliness, there are still people who are invested in the magic of visual storytelling and who long to take us on that journey.

And it's a funny journey, isn't it? Norma Desmond says we are alone in the dark. On one hand that is true. Our experience is singular. Anyone who breathes movies can tell you that they stir a rich inner life, a private world that is precious. That world can bring great joy and also serve as a ballast against troubled times. If you are lucky, it will never leave you. On the other hand, we sit among our friends and strangers, sharing a common experience. We hear the chuckle, the sniff that precedes the tear, and we become part of a shared journey.

Will the movie-going experience ever be the same again after we've gotten so used to watching everything under the sun on our large, high definition televisions? I simply don't know. I recently watched "Cinema Paradiso," not only a love letter to film, but one to that paradoxically communal and intimate experience of entering that very sacred portal to an inner life.  Amazing how something so fixed and permanent as a piece of film can lead us to a nostalgic past, a hopeful present, a deep and longing passion, a soul cleansing belly laugh or all of the above all at once.

Truthfully, there are no words to adequately describe these moments, but all I could do is try. The best movies are never real. How could they be? They are real plus, real extra...masquerading as life, but with that extra bit of beauty that defines some sort of art.

*Oh, and for those 2 idiots who were seated in my row...if you want to have a running commentary between you 2 during the film, please go home and watch movies on television. When you are in the theater, you're not in your ****ing living room.