Monday, April 18, 2011

The Party You May be Missing

  The movie I went to last Wednesday had a full house.  It also had subtitles, there were no previews, and we were personally greeted with an introduction by our own little film tour guide.
  Would you fall out of your seats if I told you it was at the Harkins Theatre in Flagstaff?

  Yes, it was at Harkins, because a good little Samaritan, Patrick Schweiss, director of the Sedona International Film Festival used his influence and bonhomie to bring independent films up the hill and show them in Flagstaff.   The independent film series is now in Flagstaff every second Wednesday of the month.
  Lucky us.

  The film, "Biutiful," a Spanish film by Alejandro González Iñárritu and starring Javier Bardem, hit an almost-perfect pitch between life and larger-than-life.  If it were a Hollywood film, it would have tied up all the loose ends, but as a Spanish film, it made sure that it didn't.  And that made it really compelling.

   To me, a good film is like a really good conversation with a new friend.  It surprises you, and proves to be a fresh perspective, yet it is a true thing and resonates.  "Biutiful" was a really great, late night conversation, one that had numerous listeners propped on pillows all over the floor, perhaps after a few cocktails, and in a not so pretty part of town, listening to Javier Bardem tell his story.  It was like the conversation that made you happy you went to that party you almost missed.

  I was introduced to "cinema as an art form" through foreign film.  I started watching Spanish, French, and Italian films, and because they were a new style and it took me longer to read the subtitles and digest the meaning, I thought about them longer.  I began to see film as a conversation starter, not as a substitute for having to talk.  I was always surprised by the way people acted in these foreign films, and I began to see that they way I responded to life wasn't the only way.  I began to remember them.  Films like "Les Enfants du Paradis" and "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" made me start thinking about expanding my friendships.

  Then I realized that American cinema was just as interesting--I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd.  So I started going to parties that David Lynch, Jim Jarmusch, Woody Allen and the Coen Bros. hosted.  And while maybe they were jerks sometimes, and maybe they were tragically hip at other times, I started enjoying the different things that they wanted to talk about.

  When I get invited to a "screen conversation", where maybe the people are just casual acquaintances, but the talk is sure to be interesting, I try to go. It's like my social life--you can only blow off so many invitations before they stop coming in. We don't have as many great films as bigger cities, but there are more and more.  I figure, if I want to keep the parties going, I've got to show up for them!  Because nobody likes talking to themselves...

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