Sunday, March 11, 2018

The World Just Shrugs Its Shoulders

According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other half. ~ Plato, although it was Aristophanes' idea

I don't even know how many months I had to wait to see this movie, but I do know I've been seeing previews for it at least since summer.

It's not just that it's winter - a season I detest - but also it's my mood, which has been lower than I'd care to admit the past few months, so late on a Friday afternoon, I used it as a reason to stop working and visually escape to sunny Italy.

Better to focus on the setting since, let's face it, there's no way I needed to see a love story.

The last minute decision to go see "Call Me By Your Name" happened  at 4:23, when I looked at the Criterion schedule, saw that it had finally opened that day and was playing at 4:30 and made the split second decision to go. Even though the theater is barely 2 miles from home, I knew I'd miss the previews but could just make the movie.

It was enough.

What I wasn't expecting at a late matinee was a nearly full house once I got inside the theater, which is how I wound up in the second row just as the film was beginning. Yes, bucolic scenes of the Lombardy region in northern Italy were just exactly what my bruised spirit needed right about now.

The setting aside, everything about the movie had a European feel: the languorous pace, the casual conversations about sex between parents and child, or even the offhand depiction of sexual attraction. It was all so refreshingly un-American, un-Hollywood-like.

Even the film's title, a reference to that Plato quote, presumes a certain level of literacy on the part of the viewer. I can always appreciate presumption of intelligence.

For someone like me who remembers 1983, the year the story is set, it was a delightful reminder of a time when men wore shorter, attractive swimming trunks (and not those hideously unflattering board shorts), young people traded books and made reading recommendations to each other (and some of us weren't happy when our books weren't returned) and sunning yourself counted as a pastime.

And in a scene where the young people are dancing outside at night and the Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way" - one of the summer's big songs - starts playing, it's positively transporting for those of us who remember dancing to it.

Everything about the film was swoon-worthy: the scenery, the coming of age story, watching first love unfold, the sprawling, unhurried outdoor meals, even the abundance of fresh fruit from nearby trees.

I don't know how a person who'd never been to Italy could have left that theater without a newly found passionate desire to do so. I've only been once and walked out wishing I could teleport.

But when all was said and done, the most powerful scene in the movie, the one that will resonate for some time to come for me, was the one in which Elio's father explained why he needed to allow himself to feel hurt for as long as it took...even if it was a lifetime.

We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing, so as not to feel anything, what a waste!

Because my first true love arrived post-30, I was as destroyed as a teenager when it didn't ultimately work out. One thing I knew for sure was that I was not going to be cured of it quickly or easily - a realization a much younger person might not have had - which in many ways only made it a heavier burden to come to terms with.

I'm inclined to think that being cured of the hurt and pain of losing someone you love isn't possible and likely not desirable. In the immortal words of Jens Leckman, "You don't get over a broken heart, you just learn to carry it gracefully."

It's the graceful part that's the challenge.

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