Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Film That Changed You?

click on photos to enlarge
Photo: Clark Little (c) From the sublime. . .

"Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

. . . to the ridiculous.

"Novelty keeps us spry, and it cleans up after itself by being gone in a minute."
Peter Schjdahl

There are many different kinds of wars, and of veterans

"It was, I think, the fact that I really had participated in death, that I knew what death was, and had almost experienced it. I had what the Christians call a 'beatific vision,' and the Greeks called 'the happy day,' the happy vision just before death. Now if you have had that, and survived it, come back from it, you are no longer like other people, and there's no use deceiving yourself that you are."
Katherine Anne Porter

Every artist tries to share their unique vision of that which we all experience (if we are paying attention). In successful art and literature, these universals meet a particular vision and setting - "particulars" very different from our own. If the work is successful, we willingly suspend our disbelief and BECOME the person in the story we are watching or reading. We lose ourselves and find "knowing" all at the same time.

I did not grow up in an Italian coastal village in the 1930s - but Fellini did. Today his "coming of age" film Amarcord ("I remember") was shown uninterrupted on IFC. With a father in his final hours or days, and a life that has consisted largely of "saying goodbye" for months now, I was primed to be someone very different for a while.

Amarcord provides me with an added dimension, in that I first saw it as a callow youth when it "came out" in the 1970's. Thus, today I could become Italian and also renew acquaintance with the kid who first saw the film. In what ways is there more richness to it than I appreciated back then? What images have stayed in my head all these years? I certainly remembered the grandfather at the family picnic who climbs a tall tree and shouts: "I want a woman" for hours. The image of the angry father taking a bite out of a hat could have been Homer Simpson - or my dad. The dreamy scenes of falling snow, and coastal fogs, made me a dazzled child again.

Lots of folks like "BIG" movies, and BLOCKBUSTER novels with over-the-top goings on. But there is something truly golden about an artist who doesn't trumpet a "MESSAGE" or "ANSWER" but rather provokes our own interior conversations with a work that unfolds like Proust's Madelaine, giving off new flavors & appreciations as our mind's palate matures.

Another version of the universal story that I like is the film Avalon by Barry Levinson. The Trouble With Angel's, starring Hailey Mills also reminds me of the "me" I was growing up, and the world where I came of age.

Now it's YOUR turn. Tell us a film or book that touched your imagination, provoking YOUR yearning and excellence.

As a character in Amarcord says: "Silence is golden; but words are silver."

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