One reason I’m slogging through mud around here is because I’ve been doing Benadryl round the clock for allergies the past couple of weeks, which I hate as sometimes it makes me feel quite doped. Had just taken some last night when I sat down to watch “Juliette of the Spirits”, which I’ve not seen in several years as our copy was bad. But now have a new DVD. Was unable to watch it all the way through though as I kept falling asleep, despite the fact I was riveted, as ever, by the photography and Giulietta Masina’s amazing face.
I’m reminded that I’ve not seen “La Strada” since the 80s and must view it some time soon. I recollect nothing about it.
Had forgotten just how frightening to Juliette was the visionary appearance of the barge of the barbarians. She is at the beach and witnesses Suzy and her entourage float up in their pretty much incomparable way. And then the vision of the barge of the barbarians, the first scene of which is the dead horses.
I may blog the film. Haven’t seen it in so long and it is so remarkable. Marty and I were discussing it and I believe he saw it before I did, at some college film festival,. My first viewing was at George Ellis’ Film Forum in the late 70s. Marty was on the road and we lived about a mile from the Film Forum here in Atlanta and when I was in town and not on the road I would walk over there during the week for one of the day time screenings, the two memorable ones for me being “Juiliette of the Spirits” and Maria Callas in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea”. Which floored me. A staggering performance.
The Film Forum was a small theater (not by today’s standards) and showed some of the best films. A gray bearded George Ellis was always present to take your money and give you a ticket, at least when I was there. I remember I had come back to watch “Juliette of the Spirits” a second time that week and he granted me one of the best smiles I’ve ever received as he handed me my ticket. I’m a rather shy person and so never did talk with him. That week I was feeling particularly alone and lonely, had tromped around Atlanta a good bit that week in the rain, doing a lot of thinking and working the brain hard for whatever it was I was writing then. But whenever I went to the Film Forum it always felt a bit like going home, here were some kindred spirits, and Ellis would smile just the sort of smile that communicated, “Ah, you too, you also see the beauty in these films, well, welcome to you.” At least so it seemed. That day his smile was extra broad, extra long, extra friendly, as he handed me my ticket. I’ve no idea what type of a person he was really but his smile that day in particular was one of those that not only makes you feel quite rich for the afternoon but which you remember for a life time.
If you go read the link I’ve supplied on Ellis, it will give you some sense of his battle to bring good film to Atlanta and keep bringing it here as long as he could. His theater felt like a brave little fort in a multiplex war zone. I had no money at all and it wasn’t rare for me to live on literally nothing but biscuits. I’d have a bag of flour and some shortening and make up a batch of biscuits and live on those biscuits alone for an entire week, allotting myself several a day to make them last. It was the kind of thing where I’d not have enough money for a film and bus fare both, for which would reason I would walk everywhere. Out of the few dollars I had I’d reserve a few for a film at the Film Forum as some of those films were as essential to me as food, and would try to squeak out a couple of dollars for a bag of popcorn and a Coke, figuring that the popcorn and Coke purchases did their little part in helping to keep the struggling theater afloat. At other theaters I never bought the popcorn and Coke, only there because I thought it may help.
I’ve not felt that way about cinema in a long while. And quit, years ago, going to see film in theaters.
Some of that love for film remains. I would say that perhaps I’ve passed some of it along to H.o.p., except that he likes what he likes and if he didn’t like film then no matter how much I liked it, it would make no difference. But he enjoys good film and I suppose some of my love for it has passed along to him. Not things like “Juliette of the Spirits”. It’s not something he would enjoy yet. What I keep thinking he must next see is some Jacques Tati. I know that most doi’t like Jerry Lewis, but I do and I had the feeling he’d love some of the old Jerry Lewis comedy, which he did, introduced him to that a couple of weeks ago because we couldn’t locate easily the couple of Jacques Tati films we have on tape. So we went with the Jerry Lewis and he laughed himself silly watching select scenes over and over again. I suspected he’d go for it because the comedy he comes up with to entertain himself and us is the same kind of whacked out, over-the-top silliness.
So years ago I reserved those couple of dollars for a viewing at the Film Forum and a bag of popcorn and coke, those films as essential to my spirit as any food was for the body. And in a way that still carries on today except that the essentials these days are what H.o.p. is dreaming up and giving him the ability to do it. Those reserved dolllars these days go for clay for stop motion (a new batch, new colors, is open on the table), and this weekend he saw a little jointed artist’s model figure that he had to have and we got that for him and he came home and got out the camera and we sat down together and tried doing an experimental stop motion film of it, to see how the model worked. Seemed like it would do well but it turned out to be too loose jointed and would lose poses, but then again we are working without a tripod and it scarcely mattered.
A friend has a table tripod they are going to lend us for the cause.
Those days, several decades ago, I would go see something like “Juliette of the Spirits” and take it out of the theater with me as best I could, spend hours meditating on it. These days the table is filled with H.o.p.’s clay creations for his stop motion and quickly sketched backgrounds that he has taped together now fill all the chairs. We sit on the futon and discuss “Tom and Jerry” and its animation and the backgrounds. “They look so real,” he says of the backgrounds. “How did they do that?” Fortunately I recently found a blog, Animation ID, that discusses the animators of some of these classic ‘toons. Too much info for H.o.p., but I read and point out a few things to him that I learn.
I’m curmudgeon enough (never used that word before) that when he spends stretches of time looking up videos of robots on Google, has me checking out the films first to make sure they are something suitable for a child (never know what you’ll get), that I’ll start complaining, “This is trash, H.o.p. It’s trash animation and film. If you spend your time watching trash animation and film you’re going to learn the ins and outs of making trash. You learn good film by watching good film. You’ve got to at least spend equal time watching good film.” I imagine many would think this is too controlling of me. But it doesn’t take much to draw him away and plug him in to something better. I will look up an animation site and turn him loose on it. A thing I sometimes regret as it may mean my seeing that site for the next two months, a few select films played over and over.
The Benadryl hit hard enough last night, plus a lack of really good sleep, that this AM I took a while waking up. And while I was waking up H.o.p. went to the park with his dad. Which netted them a flat tire. Marty thought he’d picked up a nail but instead it’s something the homeless pull. They let the air out of a tire and when you come back they offer to help you and net a few dollars for their effort.
Not yet knowing the tire was fine, believing it needed patching, they dropped off the van at the gas station and walked home. H.o.p. was hot and tired. His dad left to pick up the van and go to the studio and H.o.p. suddenly jumped up thinking his dad had taken the camera with him. “Oh, no, he took the camera!” Then he realized that no it was here on the table.
He pulled the camera out of its case and showed me the short films he’d done at the park, when not playing with some other kids with whom he’d made friends and who also are fans of Godzilla. The short films he made? Godzilla versus Mechagodzilla of course, he having taken along a Godzilla toy and a Mechagodzilla toy. He filmed them battling it out on the park’s grass. Now he’s in filming PBS. Kind of like his own remixes. He thinks up stories and then films parts of cartoons and cuts them in with other things to make up something else. I was particularly amused by his one day seeing a Flash cartoon backdrop of power lines and grabbing up his Godzilla and doing a short film of his toy Godzilla stomping about in front of someone else’s cartoon power lines.