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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another Year

I was more sad about the fact that the movie theatre wouldn't accept my Fandango card than I was about how sad the movie was.

This is not to say that it wasn't a sad movie, because it was. And I loved it.

"Another Year," by Mike Leigh (who inspired serious man-crushing times within me after his 1999 masterpiece, "Topsy Turvy") is not, perhaps a film for those who think middle age is going to be some sort of placid, taciturn glide through calm waters.

Or maybe that's exactly who it's for.

It is perhaps a warning, a gentle, mesmerizing warning that, no matter how stable and low-key and together you and your weak-chinned spouse may be at 62-ish, the two of you will be basically a lightning rod or a mosquito lamp for all the self-absorbed, alcohol-infused, neurotic cray the cruel, obscene world has to offer. Your charming twin and your patch of community garden and your Volvo V-70 "estate" may very well be oases of calm, orderliness, and tranquility, but your family members will be sweaty, drink-and-cig machines, or raspy-throated, emaciated, dirty, mildly-retarded, vacant-eyed ghosts. Your friends will be people whom you actually cannot stand-- clingy, wine-swilling, socially inappropriate, boundary-busting, insecure, disordered, ridiculous waifs who dress as though they're twenty years younger-- every wrinkle holding a thousand lies.

It's not a very comforting view of life, and the thought, at least in the back of my head was: "Is this what I'm struggling and striving for in my thirties-- so my sixties can look and feel as awful as this?!" But it was beautiful to watch.

The actors in Leigh's film may not be much to look at, but they are all brilliant. Every dart of the eye, every pained smile, each line in Jim Broadbent's face gives you a clue as to what his character Tom is thinking. There are a dozen unsaid lines for each one that is uttered, and the script is unclouded, honest, and terribly painful and desperately funny. Just, I suppose, like life is supposed to inevitably and inexorably be.

We took my 22-year-old sister-in-law to the movie on Friday night.

"Thanks for taking me to see the most depressing movie ever made," she said. Obviously, she's never seen "Glory" or that one where Mr. Bean is a fucking policeman.

I get made fun of a lot for liking "depressing things." Sad music, mostly. Folk songs about coal mining disasters or people dying, or lovers growing old-- things like that. And I see how that can be seen as dumping some coal on the fire that is quite possibly depression with a capital D. And I see how being attracted to films like "Another Year" can seem strange. When my sisters and I saw "Big Fish," during the last scene, where he's carrying his father to the river and all of the bizarre characters from the entire film are crowded around to say goodbye I cried so hard in the movie theatre people around me were probably a little disturbed. But I bought the movie the first day it became available on DVD.

Because it was beautiful. And painful. And I think there's some component in my brain whereby the one is the perfect complement to the other.

The songs that I love aren't just, you know, sad. There's also tremendous artistry. Kat Eggleston picking out a song on her guitar about the the choice to go back to a time in your life and observe your parents young and healthy and spry-- "if someone gave you the power... would you go... home?" is a gorgeous song. It's complex and meaningful and poignant. It's not easy to flush. It's not Justin Bieber hair-flicking tripe.

"You know what I mean?" I said earnestly, during a conversation with my wife in the dining room yesterday afternoon, as we talked about the crossroads where art and depression intertwine in my heart.

"Yes," she said, "you like being sad."

1 comment:

  1. I have been so depressed this past week..Cant seem to shake it and now I read this blog. I listened to Kates song because of your description. I think about what it would be like to go back in time and revisit a day with my parents. Crazy that there is a song out there saying the same thing.
    Then I watched the trailer for the movie. Looks like a great film. The director is brilliant. I loved Secrets and Lies.
    Thanks for a great blog Mr Apron.. Your wife has you so figured out!
    Cheers kid!


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