11 January 2012


She had milky white fingers and fire engine red nail polish. Sitting next to me on the streetcar she turned the pages of her book. Maybe it was just that and perhaps it was the combination of this and her lacy black outfit, but the effect was to remind me of: grandmother's house, rainy late Wednesday afternoon. I, a child. Grandma patting me on the back as I sat in her kitchen. I must have been about eight years old. This is a distant memory.

I came home and watched TV when I should have been sobbing softly. These are the kind of mistakes we make when the poetry of our life gets to far away. There is a tenderness that can ease out of our soul. Warm blankets and fog shrouded green hills will give way to the desert of spiteful desires. Resentments encroach on lonely men stuck on sofas with commercials blaring.

These feelings, these moments, these crystal clear pictures are evoked in certain kinds of films. Bergman has the camera hold on a face. Within the context of the story this shot tells us more than five minutes of dialogue. Chaplin shows us a man walking, startled, running, chased and we are in that moment. No words. Ford gives us a landscape and we know great truths about the story he is telling us.

There are the great unspoken moments in films that we fix on. Our mind holds them. Dwells. We may contemplate or not. But the image remains. Is stored for later use. Movies are like this. Still pictures of incredible truth that are lovingly set within stories. Kubrick told bold stories with daring set pieces that are indelible. Fellini would create incredible sights that defied our imaginations and then wrapped around them and held on. Von Sternberg gave us Dietrich's face cast against light and shadows. Held for what would be too long, were it not shot just right, and she not so beautiful. Forever moments.

Not the fast and easy. Not the loud and strong. Never the mindless whir of dervishes. Only the thoughtful and considered. No false beauty of haute couture. Only the real and the remembered and that which has been felt. Understood or not. Underscored only perhaps.

Malle follows Moreau through the rain in Paris. That face. That luscious black and white. We want to be with her. Just as we want to walk the streets of San Francisco to find Hitchcock's Novak in deep red. The silence of beauty. Allen gives us Hemingway's tears as his own character gives her unwanted freedom. We understand him, ache for her, feel the time and place.

The undefinability of love. The fleeting permanence that is film. The contradictions that make life confounding and oh so wonderful. We need never leave it.

Let the music of your musings, mingle with the desire, the longing for life's beauty. The rare moments of clarity that are are just this side of insanity and back again. Watch a movie. Take a picture. Don't rush off. It is all still here.