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CLOSE SHOTS: For the Love of Film
by Michele Deradune
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.
Butch: I think I have a broken rib.
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!