What I Did This Summer (A Retrospective of Retrospectives)

Changes have been a-brewing in My Own Private Idaho this summer — breakups, births (not from this broad’s womb, nay), funerals. New people I never would have expected and people I never, ever wished to bid goodbye. That is to say: life.

And though I’ve not been in the, uh, state, to talk much, I’ve surely done what I’ve always done when the going gets tough: This semi-tough broad has lost it at the movies.

Yeth, it was an inarguably dour summer at both the cineplex and the art house; how else to explain the hoo-ha generated by the nothing-to-write-home-about Little Miss Sunshine, even given its admittedly winning cast? But just as contemporary film proved too bracing for my frazzled nerves, I finally fell, limbs akimbo, appropriately enough, for the silents. It’s hard to believe I resisted their charms as long as I did, given my oft-professed disdain for the overall volume of contemporary film—the too-Klever prattle; the soundtrack over-reliance — not to mention how much I dig the physical comedy and tic-y melodrama (o Spanish film; how I love thee). Chalk it up to my stubborn resistance to black-and-whites, which, I am pleased to report, I also have finally conquered. The trick: see’em all on the big screen. Much more so than technicolors, black-and-whities require a big screen to enliven their particular geometry of contrasts. No doubt there exist cinephiles far loftier than I who could relish Grapes of Wrath’s sour pleasures on a video IPod but, sisters and brothers, count me out.

So it’s been Retrospective summer — anything screening in NYC, from the early Hitchcocks (his style-over-substance works best nonverbally anyway) to the Frank Borzages to anything starring Our Miss Louise Brooks. The gorgeous staginess, the eyebrow waggling when I least expected it, the unmitigated emotionality that animals more than humans typically exhibit (true!): herein lie this summer’s only sweet relief.

Also of note: Film Forum’s Billy Wilder series sealed the deal for me: His Royal Filmic Puck was the greatest comedic director that ever danced down the world’s aisles. I may not officially be a listmaker, but The Apartment dwells forever in my Top Ten In The Sky.

And: After enduring the bulk of the Museum of Moving Image’s Kubrick retrospective — as well as a bona-fide StanleyK lecture (talk about earning my m-fing Hoodsie points) — I've concluded once and for all that his chilly disdain for humanity, especially for women with their messy biology and demands, limited the value of his work. I feel about him the way I suspect he felt about beautiful women: nice to look at but not so much upstairs. Especially taken in bulk, however, his films proved so much wryer than I ever would have guessed.

God love such details. The older I get, the more heartily I believe they really are what keeps us keep-on-keepin’ on.


Blogger Eric said...

You left out probably THE -- pronounced 'thee' -- THE best retrospective all summer... BAM's Antonioni fest. Did you miss it?

8/30/2006 8:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa Rosman said...

actually, you are completely, completely right. to the point where i want to edit this piece. i saw the Passenger at BAM, as well as Blowup and L'Avventura. In many ways, they held the same appeal for me as the silents--not just because I don't speak Italian. Antonioni is so comfortable with the unspoken possibilities between people as well as the ability of a vista and a room to slowly tell its own story. Three Saturday nights in a row, I found myself shoulder to shoulder with a theater of other New Yorkers held hostage by the beauty he so matter of factly (so italian!) proffered for our eyes (plot always a big philosophy question, of course). Wonderful to feel so connnected to both art and other NYorkers when you are at your most alone.

8/31/2006 2:30 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

True true, there is something paradoxical about feeling this warm connection to like-minded cinephiles as you watch a film like L'Avventura. To me though, the highlight was the screening of Zabriskie Point. I was expecting to be disappointed, as so many of my friends say it's one of his least interesting. They were so wrong! But like the pre-mentioned paradox, maybe sitting amongst a crowd who can't connect to Zabriskie Point made my understanding of it that much more real. Of course, I could just be looking for an excuse.

9/01/2006 12:10 AM  
Anonymous cinetrix said...

Oh, wow. Talk about Proustian. I can taste the distinctive wood flavor of the Hoodsie cup canoe paddle right now. Thank you, Liser.

Glad you've come around to the silents.

9/21/2006 5:36 PM  

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