Thursday, February 10, 2011

Art and Soul

A close friend is running a series of independent art films at the local library, and thought I might be interested. That's a reasonable assumption; I'm active in the arts community, and I'm originally from New York. You'd be amazed (or maybe you wouldn't) at how many people assume all city dwellers have intellectual leanings. My friend knows me better than that, but apparently not as well as she thought. I have no interest in independent art films, especially ones that require me to read subtitles.

It wasn't always this way. Growing up, I was drawn to foreign film festivals. New York is a great place for film, including Lincoln Center, where I worked. I read some pretty heavy stuff, too, including a lot of plays. Camus' "Caligula" was a favorite—don't ask me why. I read it on the subway. But somewhere along the line, things changed. Today, instead of Sartre I'd rather read Robert B. Parker. (The rhyme is unintentional. Sort of.) And my taste in movies is, well, light.

So at the library a group of about a dozen watches a movie and then discusses it. This week's movie is said to be "fraught with love, passion, despair and religious animosity." Somehow, this doesn't sound light. The word "fraught" alone gives it away.

No doubt the group will spend some time on symbolism. Even back in my Lincoln Center days, I wasn't crazy about symbols. I rarely seemed to get them right. In college, symbols could put me in a bad mood. I remember giving an oral interpretation of a poem by Emily Dickinson, a poet who—at least according to the experts—made liberal use of symbols. When I finished my presentation, the professor told me I was wrong. "How do you know?" I said to her. "Emily's dead. It's possible that I'm wrong, but it's also possible the 'experts' are wrong."

If I'm going to sit in a group and talk about something, I'd rather discuss firewood. Firewood is relevant to my life, especially right now, when I've gone through my stash of the perfectly dry stuff and am dipping in to the pile that can best be described as "seasoned but somewhat wet." I could share what I know about firewood, which isn't much, but could possibly help someone less experienced than I. And undoubtedly I would find others in the group who could give me advice to improve my woodstove and my heating bill.

Sure, I'd like to talk about movies. But my contributions would go something like this: "Didn't you love the line where Steve Carell goes, 'All of this may be premature. We don't even know if you can bowl.'"? And, "My favorite scene was where they all get trapped in the blues club, and aren't allowed to leave until they sing the blues." That would be a fun discussion. We would laugh a lot. It's hard to laugh when you're discussing despair.

Maybe the difference between the youthful, intellectual me and the mature, silly me is that in between the two I lived through love, passion, and despair. Not religious animosity, though. There are advantages to not attaching oneself to a particular religion. And thank God for that.

20 comments:

Bridgett said...

Plenty of love, passion, despair, and religious animosity over here...my aunt once explaiend that life was hard enough without watching it on the screen, too. She was a fan of Indiana Jones and Steven Seagal. I rolled my eyes when she explained this (I was 19).

Now I'm a fan not of Steven Seagal but of funny kids movies and English drawing room comedies (and any modern attempts at that genre, I guess referred to as "romantic comedies"...). I can read tough stuff. I just don't need to see it anymore. As Muriel said in the movie about her wedding, which wasn't a comedy even though it was presented as such: I don't have to listen to ABBA anymore. My life is as good as an ABBA song. I don't need to watch real life. I live that.

Susan said...

Exactly! I'm too old to be the reincarnation of your aunt, but I say that very same thing about movies all the time: "Life is hard enough . . . "

Rita said...

Where is my darn LIKE button?
:)

Susan said...

LOL I think you found it, Rita.

andzia said...

"I've been through life from both sides now..." oh darn I can't remember the rest. Ha Ha well put Susan --no wonder you're My Funny Valentine.

Susan said...

". . . from up and down, and still somehow it's life's illusions I recall. I really don't know life at all." Or something like that. :-)

Dona said...

Thank you for this, Susan. I'm so glad I'm not alone.

I'm feeling the same way about a lot of things including my book discussion groups and my film group (independent & foreign). I used to love intellectual discussions but lately all I care about is the food.

I love overhearing my kids' intellectual discussions though -- it's fun to see them so "deep".

crystal said...

Me too :)

I think I had more energy and curiosity and a higher threshold of disapoinment about reading and movie watching and music when I was young. Now I just tend to read and watch and listen to stuff I'm pretty sure I'll like. Maybe that's just being more efficient?

Mali said...

Such a great lot of comments here to a wonderful post! Dona - the food (and wine) at bookclub is VERY important!

"Maybe the difference between the youthful, intellectual me and the mature, silly me is that in between the two I lived through love, passion, and despair."

Susan, that is so true. Though I will admit to still liking movies with subtitles - but they have to be GOOD, not desperate, or black and gloomy. I recently complained at bookclub about books that are depressing.

Oh - and I recently discovered Robert B. Parker too. You're the first person I "know" who's ever read him.

Susan said...

Dona, thank you for mentioning your kids' deep discussions. I'd forgotten about mine, which I loved, too.

Crystal, "high threshold of disappointment" is great! And yes, efficiency matters more as we get older (but you're not in my league yet).

Mali, I should mention that RBP's earlier stuff is superior to his later books, although I read them all. The "can't live with her, can't live without her" theme, which appears over and over, endlessly, loses its charm after a while. But his dialogue is matchless, and full of humor, and his plots work.

I should add that two of the best movies I saw in the past decade (when I allowed myself to be dragged to films that were far from fun) were violent and somewhat depressing ("A History of Violence") and completely and utterly depressing ("The Pledge"). I guess I'm glad that I can appreciate their quality--even though I never want to get anywhere near the latter again.

crystal said...

I was too squeamish to try A History of Violence. I did see The Road - not all that great, though the book was really good and really depressing.

Susan said...

Crystal, I seem to remember that you like Viggo Mortensen. I do, too. "A History of Violence" is also a sexy movie. :-)

Helen said...

Oh you funny, endearing, intellectual lightweight...

Susan said...

LOL I'll take that as a lovely compliment, Helen!

crystal said...

Yes, Viggo :) One of my favorites of his is Hidalgo .... not too much violence, and horses.

Helen said...

It was definitely meant as a compliment Susan. Really, you should try and publish this somewhere. I know the perfect place here--can you fake a Canadian accent when you say "out"?

Susan said...

It's sort of like "oot," but more subtle, right? I think I can do that. :-)

Indigo Bunting said...

I'm late to the party, but what a party! I love this post! And this line made me laugh:

"The word 'fraught' alone gives it away."

Susan said...

LOL Yes, nothing is ever "fraught with peace." My parties are your parties, IB.

Indigo Bunting said...

xxxooo!