This just in...

It might be a new museum exhibition, or something at the opera, symphony, or ballet, or it might be something I've (we've) seen on the street. Whatever it is, it's a quick review and impression of what's captured my thoughts for the moment.


A Look Over The Shoulder

Jesus Christ Superstar, Television

Brokeback Mountain, Embarcadero, San Francisco

The Best of Youth, Balboa Theatre, San Francisco

This review/remembrance was triggered by a habit of mine. While dressing or getting undressed I sometimes turn on the cable TV and watch a movie - for whatever amount of time it takes me to get dressed. The last day of the year, Saturday, 31 December 2005, I did that, and discovered that the only thing half-way interesting was "Jesus Christ Superstar" with Ted Neeley. It was, perhaps, the proximity of other experiences that drew me to this movie, and it evoked a strange response - tears. They weren't tears about the suffering Christ, or the beauty of redemption. At another moment in time all of these things would have counted for something. What did count were the tears that flowed for the sake of lost youth. Not some other young person - but rather myself - the loss of my youth.
I had forgotten how all the players in JCSuperstar were so young. They were about the age I was when the film was released. What came to my mind was the idealism not only inherent in the film, but my own remembered idealism, my own still relatively intact innocence. That sentiment was preserved until I saw the "Roman guard" who whips Jesus, and later laughs at him on the cross. I saw his dirty blonde hair, his beard, his tanned body, and I remembered my thoughts when I first saw him - "I want this man!"
So as much as I might want to wander off into a theological discourse on these three films, I am really more interested in talking about how the three of them, as a troika, if you will, have spoken to me.
Lost youth - Jack and Ennis, and their lost opportunity - these things come quickly to mind. "Brokeback Mountain" is one of those films that I was reluctant to see, but knew that I had to see. I didn't want to be sad. I didn't want to see the reaction of wives, fathers, and supervisors. I didn't want to hurt. Having lived my own duplicitous life as a Lutheran pastor in Massachusetts and New Jersey, I knew all too well the fear of discovery, and the hiddenness of living. The agendum of a gay life is of greater importance to Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal) than it is to Ennis (Heath Ledger). It is he who draws Ennis to himself, it is he who pursues "other options" in spite of his deep love. It is he who is consumed by what he is. I remember, and I know the feeling. Life is to short to be ham stringed by convention or courtesy.
The one who moved me, however, was Ennis. In his held-in communication, in his quick and brilliant bursts of passion, in his denials and indecision he is everyman, regardless of orientation. This man needed time and space to figure it all out, and it wasn't coming easily. The attentions of daughter, or even of Jack, seemed not to allow for this pondering - this remembering that would put it all together.
There are no enemies in this film, evil beyond redemption. There are just people on the way. From the boss who hires the boys to watch over the sheep (geez. I saw this the day after Christmass!) and who seethes with his discovery to Jack's mother who communicates without words, and gesture, but merely with the look that every mother uses to greet someone who share the love of her son - there is a range of people caught in the same dilemma of wonder and wondering.
Some days after the film, I realized the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, where this was filmed, had almost been unseen by me. The beauty of a simple, but flashing, sparking, and fire-hot love had taken my eye.
At the end of the week, Arthur and I went to see "The Best of Youth". As far as I can tell, this film, very successful in Europe, has only been shown in the United States in San Francisco, perhaps New York. It is largely unknown. The website for the film says that play dates are coming for "Select Cities", as the New York Times would put it. Going to this film dislike seeing "the Ring" or "Nicholas Nicklesby". It is a clear commitment of time. It is shown in two parts, each lasting three hours. And it is worth every minute of it.
Here, again, I was lured into the lost youth pangs of this end of the year spate of movie viewing. Although the events are probably more telling to the intended Italian audience than to the average US audience (the floods in Florence, the massacre of judges in Sicily) the zeitgeist of each of the decades was in tune with what I was and where I was. Sharing, it appears, the same ages as the main characters, I was propelled into their journey, as we would say now. But this film is not about lost-youth. It is about beauty and all the things that attend beauty (death, joy, grief, birth, pain, self-discovery, setting aside, dreams - the whole list). It is best said in a post-card, revealed later in the film and in time, in which Nicola talks about grabbing hold of the beauty of the world now.
Before what! So many things accentuate the beauty of the world of Matteo, Nicola, Julia, Carlo, and the others - and so many things get in the way. In one stunning scene, Julia, who has been incarcerated for being a member of the "Red Brigade", has been sent some books to read by Nicola. They are scores of music by Beethoven, Bach and others. She opens up the score to "Singet dem Herren", and is quickly pushed into the music by pulse of Bach's cantata. She just as quickly shuts it off - closing the book and sending it back to the sender. No time for beauty now - it deceives, it hides the real.
The film is perhaps a little too neat - but not nearly as neat as an American producer would have made it. It is messy enough to convince the viewer that this is the beauty of life that is being shown and discovered. This is that same beauty that sometimes looks like hell.
It was a good movie with which to end my lost-youth binge. I along with the actors had/have aged. Patterns are forming, and new beauty is being seen. That is the way of life.

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