Friday, April 17, 2009

Memory lane and movies

I was looking through my DVD collection again tonight for a movie to watch in bed, and the usual struck: memory lane.

Almost each movie reminds me not only of a great hero and more, but also of a time in my life, as happens with most people, I imagine. More than a time in my life, each movie reminds me of where I was in my human growth, who I was with, and how I felt in that moment -- in a way that only music can do for me, but perhaps even more viscerally than music. Here are a few highlights for my life.

Spartacus: I'm sitting with my family when I'm 10 years old watching the wonderful Kirk Douglas play a man demanding his freedom against insurmountable odds and maintaining a dignity of spirit when the future seems dire. After watching the movie as a child, I feel like I can do anything, that nothing is impossible, that I can be great, that life is great for the great.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being: I'm with my friend Dan Puckett in a small theater watching the charismatic and enigmatic Daniel Day-Lewis parlay with the simmering Juliett Binoche. It reminds me of a time of burgeoning intelligence, of an abiding friendship, of grateful love toward a kindred spirit, of a life shared fully, of walking in the eternal peace of the moment, and of an expectation of an ebullient tomorrow.

Pride & Prejudice (1996 AMC version with Colin Firth): I'm with my ex-wife Kelly, and we are both crying with joy at its finish, as Darcy and Elizabeth at last complete their journey of overcoming false pride and easy prejudice and fall desperately in love with each other. Kelly is sitting on the couch behind me balling her eyes out, and tears fall in streams down my cheeks. We look at each other in wondrous ecstasy of acknowledgement of spirits.

Lawrence of Arabia: I usually watch this movie alone (at least twice yearly) because nobody I know likes it very much (I pity the fool!). The cinematography, plot and acting are absolutely splendid. Peter O'Toole is a god! Yes, Lawrence is a haunting figure and, yes, the ending is horrible. But for almost 3 hours, Lawrence is a riveting, charismatic character of grand proportions on desolate landscape. He is immutable. He is solitary. His actions are the embodiment of a will that all subordinates (even the great) must bend to. He is not the perfect man. He is the superb imperfect man made almost perfect. I watch him as I would the first man over the hill in combat, as Dagny Taggert solid upon her train, as the stern businessman dismissing the politician, as the lone figure standing down the tanks in Tienanmen Square, as William Wallace shouting "FREEDOM!" He reminds me of the greatest in me and those I cherish -- and all I must do is turn off the movie five minutes before it ends.

My relations with some of the people above (and the hundreds of others I've shared great movies with) is different, but I shall never forget those moments and never wish to. They are my life, and those friends will always be dear to me, not just in memory lane, but also in kindred spirit.

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