Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Be Beautiful But Shut Up

I feel certain that I alone reveled in the table fan.

That the Italian film began with a close-up of a table fan, that said fan seemed to blow our (unexpectedly) blond heroine's hair no matter where she stood in the room while breaking up with her lover, that the fan set the scene for a warm weather plot revolving around love, undoubtedly made me happier than anyone else at the Grace Street Theatre tonight.

I'd gone to VCU Cinematheque to see my second Michelangelo Antonioni film, "L'Eclisse," but if I were honest, I went because I'd read Alain Delon was in it (and the lump sum of my knowledge of him was from reading and let's face it, you really need to see a man in the flesh to fully appreciate him) and because it was a 1962 film, easily one of my favorite periods in movie history (especially in Italy...or France or swingin' London) for its depiction of a cultural tipping point.

Let's just say that the first music played was a variation called "L'Eclisse Twist." Groovy.

But a table fan, I mean, come on, I still have one that does double duty: as auxiliary breeze during warm weather and as white noise every night.

I realize most 21st century people see them as relics of a bygone age, but not me.

And if you think my fan devotion is absurd, know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. My father still has his mother's table fan, an extremely heavy relic from the '50s, which miraculously still works.

The beautifully shot black and white movie was full of post-war ennui as well as a Rome completely unrecognizable from the one I saw four years ago because "L'Eclisse" was shot during a period of massive urban renewal and aerial shots particularly showed huge swaths of the city as no more than empty lots and barren wastelands.

I wish I didn't love you or that I loved you much more.

Alain was rakishly handsome as anticipated, but he was also shallow, materialistic and incapable of love, as much a problem for our heroine as for any smart woman.

Two people shouldn't know each other too well if they want to fall in love.

Although the audience had several familiar adult faces - the Frenchman, the book reader, the record collector, the theater critic - the crowd was mostly students and while film students may have appreciated the 54-year old movie, many of the others apparently did not grasp our heroine's distrust of the frenzy of the modern world.

I feel like I'm in a foreign country.
Funny, that's how I feel around you.

But if they occasionally drifted out when the story got slow, they left in droves during the last 7 or 8 minutes when neither character showed up for their supposed rendezvous, leaving the audience to watch the business of life - buses, pedestrians, water - at the intended place of the assignation.

Too bad for them. Life doesn't always happen in a quick cut, rapid-fire manner but the beauty of Anonioni's film is that he demonstrates with exquisite beauty how hopeless the pursuit of love can be.

It's then that you shut yourself away from the modern world, turn on your table fan and drift off to dreams of somehow getting it right.

As an old friend said at dinner tonight, if not now, when?

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