16 November 2013

Another Saturday Night of Musing and Mentions of Dustin in Straight Time and Mitchum as Eddie Coyle

Listening to Bill Evans Time Remembered. Sweetest piano music. Keys caressed and from this soft beautiful sounds that go well on a Saturday.

It’s cold out but Bay Area cold. Not Finland or Canada cold. Warm inside. Heater on. Comfortable.

Columbia University. Watched a bit of their football team’s loss to Cornell on the telly this morning. The Lions are winless. I care because mom went there. So did Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg’s mom suffered from insanity just as mine did though presumably my mother’s mental illness didn’t strike until after her time at Columbia. I don’t know I wasn’t there. I came along later. Kerouac’s mother was not insane but he himself was an alcoholic. Like my mom. Poor ma. Made much of my childhood and teen years hell and I hated her for it for decades. Took a long time to realize that she meant no harm. Not her fault. Hard to assign blame in such situations. Best not to.

We wish for things that never could be. Like a sane and sober mother. So that happens and there it is. Tugging at us and all the wishing doesn’t change anything. I can wish many things had been different (and often do). Many of those wishes are about mistakes I made. There were some lulus. But here I am today in a warm house with nice music playing a wife I adore in the other room. I love my job and my children and as I type these words I enjoy good health. Not bad.

Happiness is an indulgence many people feel they can’t afford. I myself sometimes shoo contentment away thinking it unearned and liable to set me up for a big fall. Stupid I know. One must embrace happiness. Wrap your arms around it and hold tight lest it flit away. Oh it will escape for a bit eventually but....

Peppy. A faster tempo to this song. My head bobs.

Last Saturday I watched a film called Straight Time (1978) starring Dustin Hoffman as a man just released prison after doing seven years. He tries to go straight. But circumstances conspire as they are want to do and he’s quickly off the straight and narrow. It’s another gem from one of the most productive periods of film ever. The ‘70s. It’s damn near like they didn’t make any bad ones back then.

Straight Time also features M. Emmet Walsh Harry Dean Stanton Gary Busey Kathy Bates and Theresa Russell then a gorgeous 20 year old. The shame of the film is that we see Walsh’s naked ass and not Russell’s. Let me be clear that I do not watch films for purposes of seeing naked people. But if there is to be someone in the nude I much prefer it....Anyway you get the idea and I’ve been sidetracked.

What Straight Time does so well is explore how events beyond our control can send our lives hurtling in other directions. We like to think we are in charge of our lives and certainly we often are. But we often aren't.

Hoffman’s character is easy to root for. No we don’t want him robbing banks or shooting people but we sympathize with him and his earnest efforts. Besides it's goddamned Dustin Hoffman who almost always has played likable sorts. The movie is gritty and real as is often the case from Seventies American cinema. Straight Time was written by a con who was an ex con by the time the film was made. His understanding of the life shows. Its an effective film on numerous levels one of which being that it doesn't make judgments and leaves us room to think particularly with the manner it ends.

Tonight I had my second viewing of The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973) another crime film from the Seventies. This one starring Robert Mitchum as the titular character in a most effective performance. He’s done time. He’s had his knuckles busted in a drawer for letting some people down. He’s in the know. And he’s facing another stretch in the can which doesn’t sit well with him given that he has a wife and kids. His friends are what I will call working class crooks. They are connected to the bosses who rake in the big bucks but we never see them. Instead we meet a cast of characters who work long tense pressure packed hours breaking various laws. They have to fear cops and one another. A slip up can result in broken knuckles a trip to prison or a bullet in the head. With friends like that....

Coyle is a low level crook respected but not admired. A stand up guy but pretty old for criminal middle management. TFOEC is meticulous and realistic and endlessly interesting and eschews gratuitous violence and artificial action scenes. I admire the hell out of it.

Wouldn’t you know it I’m getting too tired to write anymore which is to say I’m too tired to do much of anything other than hitting the sack. So I reckon I will.

No comments: