Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Go away for 16 of the past 21 days and it apparently gets noticed.

When I walked into the Byrd Theatre last night to see "Out of Africa," I only got as far as the concession stand before I heard a voice from above call out, "Hey, stranger, nice to see you!" Looking up to the balcony concourse, I saw it was manager Todd giving me a hard time with a smile.

And while I allowed that it had been a solid three weeks since I'd last seen a movie there - "Smokey and the Bandit" as part of a RIP tribute to Burt - the fact is, it had only been two weeks since he'd seen my smiling face when I mistakenly showed up only to find that "L'Avventura" had screened two days earlier.

Either way, it hadn't been all that long.

Tonight, I was in my usual seat at the Grace Street Theatre for VCU Cinematheque's screening of "La Notte" promptly at 6:50, when, as usual, right at 6:59 the Frenchman slid into his usual seat one away from mine, immediately launching into chatter. "Haven't seen you in a while here. Supposed to rain for the Folk Fest this weekend. How're you doing?"

Just fine. Eager to get my Italian film fix on. Now be quiet so we can hear Dr. T. talk about the film. And please don't snore once you fall asleep like you always do.

One person who didn't give me a hard time was Mac when we got together this morning  to walk for the first time in two weeks, but since she's the one who'd taken me to Dulles when I flew out, she'd known exactly where I was. Seems she'd been avidly following the blog in the interim, since she mentioned how much she'd laughed reading about the lunch at Lady Pipi's and the food tour with the mildly crazy guide.

"Out of Africa" turned out to be an ideal movie to ease me back into the Richmond scene with its unhurried pacing, spectacular photography and unconventional love story. Since I hadn't seen it since it came out in 1985, I'd forgotten how long it was (2 hours, 50 minutes), not that it mattered because I reveled in the sheer eye candy of it, never mind Meryl Streep's superb performance and how much poetry was recited by the lovers.

And what woman of my age doesn't swoon seeing Robert Redford wash her hair or hear him pitching woo?
You ruined it for me.
Being alone.

Oh, sure, there was also humor - "I'd curtsy, but I'm drunk" - and I was caught up enough that by the final scenes, my eyes were welling up and as the lights came up, people all around me were wiping their eyes or sniffling from crying. That includes the guy sitting alone two seats down in my row.

Tonight's piece of classic Italian cinema from 1961 was introduced when Dr. T. said, "Welcome once again to an event of your life: seeing a Michelangelo Antonioni film on 35 mm!" For years now, I've admired his passion for whatever film he's chosen to show his film students and the rest of us film lovers.

Of course, attending a Cinematheque event also means having to listen to the blather of today's youth before the movie begins. Sample: "I think Jim Carrey is a colossal asshole because he thinks he's talented." And don't get me started on some kid's cellphone ringing loudly during Dr. T's introduction.

Seriously? You're a digital native, you should know how to control your devices, son.

"La Notte" was the polar opposite of "Out of Africa:" shot in black and white, the antithesis of Hollywood and full of underlying commentary about the ennui and dissatisfaction of Italy's upper classes as Italy modernized in the post-war era. The film doesn't start in the elevator of a skyscraper for nothing, you know.

What's always weird at these Cinematheque screenings is how kids today react to certain scenes. When a clearly mentally challenged woman in a hospital tries to seduce Marcello Mastroianni, several nurses rush in to restrain her and begin slapping her face. Students tittered and then giggled at that. A brutal street fight between young men in an empty lot also elicited laughter, as did a love scene.

Then there was the student behind me who during a dramatically composed scene said overly loudly to her companion, "I don't understand what's going on, but that's a beautiful shot." So while human interaction may baffle them, at least they get some of the finer points of filmmaking.

Walking home from Grace Street, there was no question that the nights have gotten cooler in my absence, with the only consolation being that out on my balcony, I had eleven moonflowers blooming tonight. That's a record so far this year, so I'm consoling myself with that.

Well, that and the fact that I saw that my neighborhood crab guys still have crustaceans available.

Don't mind me, I'm just over here trying to hang on to Summer with every fiber of my being. The only downside of being away is finding out that time marches on, even in my absence.

Drat the luck.

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