Movie Marathon


I’ve been on bit of a movie watching binge, not something I am proud of, being that I have a list of to do’s from here to kingdom come, but as one of those to do’s is to write more for my blog, I am going to use this as my theme today.

The movies ranged from shallow escapism through to the consciously deep.

At the shallow end of the swimming pool we had “LOL”, a French production with a beautiful teen considering who to sleep with played off against her beautiful mother doing the same thing – my comment that its saving grace was that I was learning something about the up and coming generations was laughed out of the water, that I could put any credence in even a French Hollywood’s portrayal of youth culture. 

Next along the continuum comes the feel good factor of “Beautiful Joe”. Billy Connolly and Sharon Stone did a good job of this fun piece, but it was all just too, too nice to be true: one man’s belief in the goodness of others saves him from mobsters and killers, although we are left with a tumor which may or may not be cured. Best line, after brain surgery he wakes and “I’m still me!”

The escape method of “Limitless” is a story in which we vicariously become so smart that we can calculate anything, learn anything, control and manipulate anyone, practically be a God in our own universe – but only if we get the drug.

I had picked out a movie I thought might have something to say “Veronica wants to die”, but the disc was missing, and in its spot was “Sarah’s Key”: bit of a tear jerker (it really might have been for some people) and so worthy I feel bad for using that disparaging label. In this perennially film favored historical period of time a young boy is hidden by being locked into a cupboard to save him from the infamous rounding up of Jews by the French police. (The larger event is true.) His sister lives with the guilt of his death until she can’t any longer. Best line here: journalist, to horrified colleagues just learning of the historical French police involvement in sending Jews to Auschwitz, “What would you have done?” We are not all as noble as we might like to think. The more one is a gentle man, or gentle woman, the more truly noble one is, the less we pain we consciously cause others. But maybe we swat a fly without a thought, or ignore the pain and devastation caused by the fishing industry so we can eat our fish fingers. Or maybe we are vegan and think we would never hurt a fly, but fear is a huge motivator. If our choice is them or us, we might turn our eyes away.

This chapter of my movie marathon ends with Blue Jasmine. Jasmine turned her eyes away from the source of her husband’s wealth, but it didn’t save her.  She wanted someone to look after her, and to do it with all the comforts and adornments that wealth and high society could provide. She tried to instruct her sister in the worthlessness of a man without money, damaging her sister’s life in the process. And when her own life imploded, dead husband, money gone, she repeated her already bankrupt method of trying to find security and happiness in a rich husband, and used deceit in attempting to do this. In this, and in her failure to achieve this, the story is retelling of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

Some of Tennessee Williams plays were familiar to me from my mother’s acting days, but coincidentally I had actually never seen or read this one until about a month ago, when I was packing some decommissioned textbooks to send to a school that can’t afford new books. One of the class sets was a volume of plays by Tennessee Williams. Before boxing them up I read through a couple of plays, and one was this tragic tale of Blanche Dubois in Streetcar, so it was fresh in my mind when I watched Blue Jasmine.

Jasmine and Blanche played out fabrications to try and gain what they considered necessary to their lives, and failed badly. This part of their tale was a lesson I knew intimately. I did not need to read a play or watch a movie to learn it, though I could be reminded.

The story that I had seen played out in the flesh, over many years, was the life of vivacious if temperamental girl who grew into a witty and attractive woman. She could be positively scintillating in the right social setting. But despite her intelligence, she did not have the mental stability, the capacity, or the desire, for sustained endeavor in a standard job. So she accepted the help and support of various men. And with the ups came downs and she spent time in prison. Later she met a young diplomat, who thought he saw in her an ideal wife to complement his career trajectory, and she accepted the diamond he offered as an engagement ring, but his attachment to her disappeared when he found out her history. The rest of her life is not so relevant here, but what I describe here should be enough to explain why when I saw Blue Jasmine my response was, this stuff really does happen.

It is interesting to tease out the messages, the themes and sub themes we find in the movies we watch. Movies are produced by people, and people have world views that get injected into their works. Sometimes, in fact often, they are consciously trying to put those view points across, and always they are doing it at least subconsciously, so we can deduce something about the movie makers’ view points from their movies. Not all movies those are produced provide some peace or happiness, they are just made to make money and fame. And we should be aware that we are being influenced by these view points as we immerse ourselves in the flickering lights from the screen.

Do we ever more deeply immerse ourselves, so deeply meditate on something, as when in a darkened theater we take our seats and relax our bodies, forgetting them for an hour or more, and submissively allow our minds to be led around and imprinted on? This is another reason why I am not proud of my movie marathons, when they happen. I am handing over my consciousness to someone, with what motives and agendas, I do not know, expect that money and fame are almost certainly part of the equation. And in that time of movie meditation I undo much of what my morning yoga meditation sessions are designed to do, to free me from materially based agendas and world views, both those of others, and, more importantly, my own.

So I thank you for giving me the chance to consider this more deeply, in my communicating with you these points of wisdom. Seeing something of the spell the movie maker weaves helps to release us from that spell, if it turns out to be one we don’t wish to be under. What we meditate on shapes our consciousness.

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