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Michele Deradune

CLOSE SHOTS: For the Love of Film
by Michele Deradune

August 2003

Most if not all of us have at some time - if not many, many times - been profoundly affected by movies. No doubt this is what has drawn so many of us actors to work in film. Many actors' first love is theater. That's not true for me, but from what I understand this is much because of the special magic that happens between the actors and a live audience. Of course with film there is a live audience too - just not in real time. Veteran actor and film acting coach MICHAEL CAINE says he loves the subtleties of film over theater. I'll own to that reason as one of the most important differences in interest in film and theater for myself. I have a great respect and awe of the theater though, and I just love it when I hear about actors "in love with the smell of the greasepaint." Clearly there is magic in them there halls.

But I was going to talk about movies. I have found many moments in films - big budget films, independent films and foreign films - to be forever memorable, and sometimes even forever inspiring. I thought this month I would share some of my favorite moments, actors and quotes in or from films.

Recently I captured a few favorite quotes from one of my favorite old cult classic films, HAROLD AND MAUDE. What a delightful movie this is. I feel fortunate to have first seen HAROLD AND MAUDE when I was about 18 years old, before I had ever given much thought to the reality that one day, should I live that long, I would become an old woman. (That's a very, very abstract idea when one is eighteen and just discovering the Big Wide World, donchano!) But the little I had thought about it, it certainly did not seem like something much to look forward to. Add to that the focus of Youth and Beauty everywhere in the media, and it was clear that getting older was surely a downhill ride. Until I met Maude (played by the irrepressible Ruth Gordon). The whole storyline of the film is something quite impressionable on its own (though I never agreed with the ending, and still don't feel that Maude's final decision was true to her character). Really fun stuff, like seventeen or eighteen year old Harold (played by Bud Cort) and 79 year old Maude meeting at the funerals of strangers. (They both love to go to funerals.) Harold was a kid with everything - materially speaking. His mom was loaded and gave him lavish gifts, but Harold had clearly discovered at a young age that money did not buy happiness. He was really a pretty depressed kid all in all. Not so with Maude. She had a love of life and an adventurous spirit that bypasses anything called old age, and she shared a lot of that with her new friend Harold. Well, I won't tell you more about the plot - it's got some fun and shocking secrets if you haven't seen it before, but here's a few quotes from the film, from Maude speaking to Harold:

"A lot of people enjoy being dead. But they're not dead, really. They're just... backing away from life. Reach out. Take a chance. Get hurt, even! Play as well as you can. Go team! GO! Give me an L! Give me an I! Give me a V! Give me an E! L. I. V. E. LIVE! ...Otherwise, you got nothing to talk about in the locker room."

"You know, at one time, I used to break into pet shops to liberate the canaries. But I decided that was an idea way before its time. Zoos are full, prisons are overflowing... oh my, how the world still dearly loves a cage."

And a great quote for when one is feeling really low after screwing up big-time:

"Harold, everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You can't let the world judge you too much."

HAROLD AND MAUDE affected me deeply, because the actress, Ruth Gordon, really lived her role in a way that I knew she was conveying a great and wonderful truth - that the heart, indeed, never becomes old - and that it is our choices and perceptions of old age that make it seem so dreadful, not the actual reality. I have a big argument with the ending of the movie, (Maude takes her own life on her 80th birthday), because that does not at all fit the spirit and charm that is Maude. I find it absolutely incongruous. But I guess whoever wrote that part of the script just couldn't think of a better ending. Oh well. Even the poor ending is not enough to ruin this great movie - and fantabulous acting! Since the first time I watched this movie, and I have watched it many times, Ruth Gordon has been one of my definite role models of choice, God bless her! As much as I'd like to stay 39 forever, I know that can't be - but thanks to Ruth, and Maude, being eighty just doesn't seem that damn bad after all. In fact, it can be a hoot (cradle-robbing notwithstanding - I think I'll skip that part thank-you-very-much, haha).

Oh my, there are way too many films I have loved to give even an significant list in this one column which I am also writing at the Eleventh Hour. Maybe I'll write about other films in future columns.

Not all films I have loved move me because they are an inspiration as in the case of HAROLD AND MAUDE. More often, it's a feeling or set of feelings - sometimes a commiseration, but always touching.

This is what I love most: for a movie to touch me in the tenderest and most sensitive spots of my being. Sometimes that means a drama, but other times it can be sheer comedy. Great comedy, to me, is all about releasing the humor and laughter we all need in the end to release so much of the pain we feel in this life and sometimes all that means is being touched just enough to remember not to take ourselves so darned seriously. Another film I love from way back is LOVE AND DEATH, a WOODY ALLEN movie with DIANE KEATON. One of the funny things in this script (not such a surprise when we know it was written by Allen) is when it makes fun of being too cerebral. Sometimes the props are too silly for my taste, but that is a minuscule portion of the film, and I get many "surprise" laughs from this film throughout - even though I have seen it a dozen times.

Quotes from LOVE AND DEATH:

There are worse things in life than death. I mean, if you've ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman, you know exactly what I mean.

All men are mortal. Socrates was mortal. Therefore, all men are Socrates. Which means that all men are homosexuals."

Party Guest: "Napoleon has invaded Austria!"
Boris: "Why, is he out of Courvosier?"

My room at midnight?
All right. Will you be there too?

Boris: I've always loved you. [...]
Sonja (Diane Keaton): Why didn't you say something?
Boris: Would it have mattered?
Sonja: Of course not, darling.

Doctor: What kind of `void'?
Boris: An empty void.
Doctor: An empty void?
Boris: I felt a full void a month ago, but it was just something I ate.

I never want to marry. I just want to get divorced.

I can't do anything to the death, doctor's orders. I have an ulcer and dying is one of the worst things for it.

Boris: You must never kill a man, especially if it means taking his life.

And finally, one of my top favorite quotes from LOVE AND DEATH:

Sonja: To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love, but then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy then is to suffer but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore to be unhappy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down.

Okay, enough about that film.

SNAKE TALES still makes me laugh too. Is this a good time to put in my shameless plug for it? If some bright and moneyed entrepreneur ever decides to start a theater distribution company to distribute ONLY independent films to theaters, there will be no surprise that this film will be one of them. But for now, if you are fortunate to live in Austin, Texas, you can easily rent the video at Vulcan Video or Waterloo Video and Barna Kantor at Media Garage even sells copies. Anyhow, here are a few of my favorite quotes from SNAKE TALES (whose cast, excepting Hollywood actress LORI HEURING as the young and beautiful snake expert, is composed of Austin actors):

"Sweetness in the night. It passes - like chocolate, melting on the tongue." (DAVID BLACKWELL as Uncle Dick)

"You've got one minute to tell it." (FRED ELLIS as Judge Roy O. Stalk)

"My type? Sure. I've loved man like in a prism - all split up into many, many different lovers." (moi - as Mel)

PULP FICTION was a life changer for me. I have to say that this film really taught me something. After spending most of my life absolutely refusing to watch any film with too much violence or blood, so many people recommended this movie to me that I found it too intriguing to pass up and went to check it out myself. Before PULP FICTION, I found absolutely zero humor in any violent scene on the screen. I had a method for dealing with unexpected violence in films which I was stunned to learn was the EXACT same thing an old friend of mine also used to do: we would hold our hands over our ears and hum "Mary had a little lamb" over and over until tiny peeks showed that the violence had ended and we could resume watching the movie. (Yes, we even hummed the same song, years before we ever met!) I didn't like having to do that, though, and was very annoyed every time I felt tricked into watching a film with blood and gore.

But PULP FICTION was different. It was a film where I truly could appreciate the art to a point that transcended my aversion to violence. And in some scenes - most notably the ones regarding Vince's (JOHN TRAVOLTA) accidentally shooting of a passenger of the car in which he was riding - I even learned I could laugh during such tragedy. It is for this reason I will forever be indebted to and in admiration of the talents of QUENTIN TARANTINO, who both wrote and directed the film, and actors TRAVOLTA and SAMUEL L. JACKSON. Call me silly, but there is just something about the way they handled blowing somebody's brains out that I find incredibly endearing.

There are lots of fun quotes from PULP FICTION too. There is a whole heck of a lot more to love about this film than just the scene I mention above. Lots and lots more - and for me, the discovery of some new favorite actors, including UMA THURMAN, BRUCE WILLIS (I hadn't seen DIE HARD - I avoided movies like that, remember?), TIM ROSS, ERIC STOLTZ, MARIA DE MEDEIROS and others. Not to mention a new appreciation for actors I had seen many times before, such as TRAVOLTA and HARVEY KEITEL. I really enjoyed TARANTINO's cameo role in it, too. He's great with delivering the witty comebacks, really fun to watch!

Here's a mere smattering of quotes from PULP FICTION:

(Call me sentimental, but this first quote is amazing to me for its ability to make cuss words come out like pose and poetry):

Jules (Samuel L. Jackson): "Oh, man! I will NEVER forgive your ass for this shit. This is some fucked up repugnant shit!"

Another favorite Jules line, right after Jules (a hit man) shoots Brad's (Frank Whalen) friend on the couch:

"Oh, I'm sorry. Did I break your concentration?"

Butch (Bruce Willis): Will you hand me a towel, tulip?
Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros): Ah, I like that. I like tulip. Tulip is much better than mongoloid.

The Wolf (Harvey Keitel): That's thirty minutes away. I'll be there in ten.

Lance (Eric Stoltz): You're going to give her an injection of adrenaline directly to her heart.
Vincent: Then what happens?
Lance: I'm curious about that myself.

Butch: I think I have a broken rib.
Fabienne: From giving me oral pleasure?

Oh my. The longer this list of quotes gets from PULP FICTION, the more quotes I find that I want to include - so I'm going to stop right here. You're just going to have to see the movie (again or for the first time, whichever!)

TRUE ROMANCE, like PULP FICTION hold special honorary positions in my life as the only two movies that I was willing to and did pay full retail price for. Oh, now don't get your boxers in a knit - there are plenty of damn good movies out there worth purchasing for retail price - I know it! - but I'm on a budget, donchano?!

I have never yet seen TRUE ROMANCE on the big screen. I learned about it only after it left the theaters and when I heard that TARANTINO wrote the screenplay I had to check it out. WOW. Love it! It's also the film where I "discovered" PATRICIA ARQUETTE. May as well call up Webster's and tell 'em they got to add her name to the definition of "adorable"!

This column is getting too long, so I'm going to have to come to what feels like a premature close here, but let me just mention that one of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in the movie TRUE ROMANCE. This is the movie where I became a great fan of several actors, but in this particular scene it is CHRISTOPHER WALKEN (as a Sicilian crime boss, and you KNOW he does that oh so well!) and Dennis Hopper - the epitome of down home and soulful True Grit. There's lots more actors I could eulogize here from this great film, (just have to mention GARY OLDMAN's awesomely fascinating characterization of Drexel), but I have just got to go. Okay, okay, I'll give you a quote or two first. This is one of those movies far too many people have not seen yet. If you are one of them, get thee to the video store, pronto!

Clarence Worley (Christian Slater, who was just perfect for this role): I always said, if I had to f--k a guy... I mean had to, if my life depended on it... I'd f--k Elvis.

Floyd (Brad Pitt is incredibly enjoyable and hilarious in this small role as a stoned-out hippie type dude): Don't condescend me, man. I'll f--kin' kill ya, man.

Drexel Spivey (Gary Oldman): Now I know I'm pretty, but I ain't as pretty as a pair of titties.

Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper): Who are you?
Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken): I'm the Anti-Christ. You get me in a vendetta kind of mood, you will tell the angels in heaven that you had never seen evil so singularly personified as you did in the face of the man who killed you. My name is Vincenzo Coccotti.

Alabama (Patricia Arquette): I think that what you did was so romantic!

Just one other thing I have to say about TRUE ROMANCE. If you don't like PULP FICTION, you probably won't like TRUE ROMANCE either. But except for those of you who for me fall into the same category as those who don't like chocolate, or avocados - i.e., incomprehensible - this movie is Film Fan Candy...! I have seen it reviewed by some critics that just hated it. Unless you didn't like PULP FICTION, don't believe 'em!

Hey, its HOT out there. Y'all stay cool!

Cheers,
Michele
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Michele Déradune is a single mom, film actress and voice talent represented by Ciao! Talents. Michele played Mel, cheating wife of the judge, in the Texas-based SNAKE TALES (Winner "Best Independent Film Comedy" at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Summer 2001). (SNAKE TALES is available for rent at Vulcan Video and Waterloo Video or can be ordered through Media Garage here in Austin.) Her website is http://www.Deradune.com.

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