25 June 2011

"We Have Heard the Chimes at Midnight" And Then Collapsed on an Idaho Road

Thank you William Shakespeare for inspiring the film I watched earlier today, My Own Private Idaho (1991). I know you didn't have young hustlers living in the America circa 1990 in mind when you wrote Henry IV Part I Henry V Part II and Henry V. And gay sex was probably not in your first draft. But dude....This adaptation totally worked.

Yeah the idea of a young man about to inherit position and wealth. Soon to abandon old friends and old ways (in this case of drugs, of thievery of prostitution) turning his back (literally!) on old friends -- sorry Falstaff. All here! Gus Van Sandt adapted, adopted and directed.

Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix (he became the late River Phoenix way too early) starred. And it was good what they did (if I count the number of times I've liked Reeves in a movie it won't take but a second).

My Own Private Idaho is a remarkably sad, happy story which means it tells some truths about life. I really like that in a story, a movie. Don't you Shakespeare? I knew you would.

You see there are young man who prostitute themselves -- one who looks from hell and back for his mom -- they cuss, steal, laugh, cry and try to figure out what the deal is with this thing called life. And there are people who make 180 degree turns in their lives. And one who has narcolepsy that totally screws with him. Yeah people collapse on lonely roads too. Loneliness. Life can be incredibly lonely at stretches for people. Even when they're among friends. Weird, huh?

People say stuff like this to each other: "Why, you wouldn't even look at a clock unless hours were lines of coke, dials looked like the signs of gay bars, or time itself was a fair hustler in black leather." That was Scott Favor (Reeves) talking. And people also express this type of sentiment: "I've been tasting roads my whole life." Maybe not in those words but that kind of notion which was said in this story by Mike Waters (Phoenix).

I've noticed that people can be really profound when they talk the truth about things they know. You go to a 12 step meeting where people are struggling with their demons or just trying to sort out the day-to-day and you hear some seriously honest, eloquent stuff. "I'm a connoisseur of roads. I've been tasting roads my whole life. This road will never end. It probably goes all around the world." That's Mike again and that's more stuff about roads which as you can guess he spends a lot of time on and are like a metaphor and all for a lot of what he's dealing with like looking for his mom which is really also looking for who he is and I don't care that this is a run-on sentence because sometimes it just has to be that way. My point being that sometimes rules are superseded by what is needed at the time. That's a point a lot of people don't get. The characters in My Own Private Idaho do, however. Because for better or for worse they are alive. There's a lot of walking dead in the world.

I was comfortable watching the people in this film because, like I said, they were being real and also because (and here I pause and ask you to do the same).....Van Sandt did a really beautiful job of telling the story. The shots down lonely roads were easy, but kudos for not screwing them up. The scene set ups, the frames of faces and people talking, really nice. The whole feel of the film was a wonderful melding of artsy and real. Plus it had the language of Shakespeare. There were a few lines literally lifted from the aforementioned plays (like in the title of this post) but that's not what I mean. The language came from the combination of truth and beauty in the words and the story construction. Also, like the great bard, there was a depth to the story.

Also, My Own Private Idaho has love in it. The great director John Cassavetes said he wouldn't make a story without love as the central element. People digging around within themselves trying to sort out who their loves are and why and if and when and what to say about it, that's life at it's most basic. Yeah we eat, sleep and all that other stuff, but by God we also spend a lot of time wrestling with love (what the hell is it, anyway?). It's a helluva thing and gets to all of us regardless of present circumstance. Mike has a wonderful/terrible time exploring his love for Scott and does it aloud in conversation with him in an amazing fireside conversation. It's just the kind of stuff that separates superior film from crap.

This is a movie that goes ahead and says something. Maybe you didn't like it, or can't relate, but you've got to credit films that dig deep. They find real kind of stories with real kind of people in them dealing with real kind of situations. Then they try to find a way to tell it that will make it accessible but also challenge us. I'm all for it and am sorely sorry it's the kind of storytelling so rare in Hollywood.

Okay so Shakespeare if you're in a place that you can check this movie out, do so. Then again, its been out for 20 years so you probably have already. What did ya think? See what an incredible variety of stories your stories inspire? You should be proud, man. Seriously.

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