Saturday, November 12, 2016

A Woman Following the Moon

My evening mirrored the week, both absurd and with a reminder that what is good abides.

After taking care of my hired mouth with dinner, Mac and I battled I-95 Friday evening traffic and VCU basketball traffic jams to get to the Bijou to see John Huston's "Wise Blood."

As one of the Bijou's co-founders said when I admitted I'd never seen the film, "This is a movie for people like you," meaning people who are still trying to fill in gaps in their film viewing history and people willing to wait for a chance to see them on the big screen.

And, yes, I'd read the story, both in college and again 10 years ago, and here was this film geek telling me that the film lived up to the source material. I was there to discover that for myself.

Ditto for the guy in the row behind us from Raleigh, in town for tomorrow's marathon, who'd googled things to do in Richmond tonight and shown up to join us locals for a couple of hours of southern Gothic through a late '70s filter, courtesy of a directorial master like Huston.

Talk about your killer off-kilter movies.

And oh-so politically incorrect. The "n-word" was used as liberally as salt at my parents' dinner table, in a way that seemed shocking for 1979. Quaintly dated, too, like when the Hazel Moates character kept telling people, "I'm obliged" as a way of saying thank you.

Flannery O'Conner's dialog sounded as southern and descriptive as her books. I mean, when's the last time you heard someone's hair described as "so thin it looked like ham gravy trickling down her skull"?

First off, you've got to know what ham gravy is and looks like to even get a laugh out of that. Coincidentally, Mac and I had just been discussing sausage gravy on the way to dinner (and how Anthony Bourdain's recipe for it is an affront to southerners everywhere). But I digress.

Ned Beatty's lavender leisure suit was bad enough, but when you add in the red and pink floral tie, red and white striped shirt, white Stetson and white shoes, it was like the costume designer threw up on him and called it a day.

Add in the requisite '70s details - S & H Green Stamp stores, women in public in pink sponge curlers and a kid wearing a knit cap with the words, "Can you dig it?" - to the fully-formed and totally bizarre characters and I felt more like I was watching an early long-lost David Lynch or Tarantino movie, full of odd moments and even weirder people saying totally unexpected things.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that James was absolutely correct and that it was most definitely a movie for people like me. And Mac...and the guy from Raleigh. No one shows up for a film like "Wise Blood" accidentally.

Once we left there, we made the inevitable trek westward ho to become part of the mass of humanity in Scott's Addition with all the usual Friday night brewery crowds piled on top of this year's InLight extravaganza.

I've only missed one year of the annual event (best excuse ever: I was in Italy for two weeks) because the combination of artistic endeavor combined with the inevitability of stumbling over (hey, with no street lights on, it was dark) scores of familiar faces make InLight feel like a big community shindig and who doesn't need one of those this week?

Along the way, we met up with Bruno awaiting us on a corner and Foto Boy - camera, lens and tripod in hand, whom Mac summoned via the magic of texting after I provided her his phone number - in the middle of a darkened street.

The good news is how much more spread out the installations were than they've been in some past years and the bad news was the north wind which seemed to sweep down the streets unabated, knocking over signage and destroying elements (one installation began with 54 balloons for the 54 corners in Scott's Addition and by the time we saw it, there were seven left - balloons, not corners, that is).

As in the past few years of InLight, I felt there were a few too many straight-forward projections for my taste (as was a particularly video game-like piece).

Far more interesting to me were installations such as  Bob Kaputo's "Cold and Overcast Day 2016," a sepia-toned rectangular light box with images inside projected out and the sound of kinetic energy emanating from it. The artist likened the sound to that of brain synapses, a notion that made sense watching it.

Looking at Leigh Suggs' phosphorescent map of Richmond, Bruno said he better understood Church Hill by seeing it laid out without street names.

As I stood there admiring it and trying to locate my street and neighborhood, from behind me I heard  Foto Boy knowingly saying, "Karen loves her maps." She sure does, as he's learned from nearly 8 years of friendship.

I stopped in my tracks when I spotted Rob Carter's "Sun City," Mac's favorite, the black and white images of a Spanish city changing over time, a visual feat accomplished with time lapse images of architecture, history and possibility. So much more than just a projection.

Art on Wheels DIY take on Lite Brite (soda bottles full of colored water you could arrange in a grid to form images) seemed to most delight the generation that grew up on the game, but all of us found it to be an exceptionally clever idea.

Walking through the garage of a lofts building, we encountered a series of framed "clouds" captured in glass, visible on both sides and Foto Boy wasted no time in positioning me, telling me where to look and shooting away. I appreciate that he makes me look good and he appreciates that I give him photo credit if I post his work. Win-win.

"Somebody's got some powerful projectors," a musician friend jokingly observed as we paused to look up at a magnificent tableaux in the sky: the nearly full moon on one side of the glowing red WTVR tower and a huge crescent of cirro-cumulus clouds on the other.

I'm obliged for a Friday evening with such lovely distractions after a week that has worn on even the most optimistic of us.

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