Sunday, September 17, 2017

50 for 50, day 11: A film I love

There are a few films, books, and other kinds of art that changed me the first time I saw them. You have those too, I'm sure. I revisit some from time to time, and I thought I might share a few of them with you, as I move through this blog series.

I was a freshman in college. That alone should tell you something about my state of mind; I was primed for transformation. It was a transformational time in many ways (among other things, that was when I met Brother Blue) and there were many people who helped. Ned was one of them. He was also a freshman and we met (I think) in an Anthropology 101 class. Or maybe the dining hall. Or somewhere else, it doesn't really matter. Anyway, Ned was one of those friends that you find in college, the ones with whom you stay up into the wee hours, talking philosophy and music and solving world problems with the assurance of a person just stepping into adulthood. If the world was run by people in their late teens to early twenties we might be in much better shape than we are now, because at that age I had much more certainty than I do now. I don't know.

Anyway, Ned and I were talking about something and this movie came up. He told me it was amazing and strange and Australian and I needed to see it, so we trundled down to the local video store, rented a VCR and the tape. Remember those?

I watched Bliss with rapt fascination and indeed, I did need to see it. It's become one of those movies I revisit every few years. I've shared it with a variety of people and the reaction is predictable: They either love it and are fascinated, finding themselves in it, or they are bored. I've learned to not be judgey about it, but really, how can the story of living in hell be boring? I went on to read the book, written by Peter Carey and well worth the time. I picked it up during my first solo overseas trip and I have crisp, clear memories of reading it in a tiny cafe while it poured outside, drinking strong tea, and being aware that I was in the same kind of transformational moment that the protagonist finds himself in.

It's not a terribly original storyline. Honestly, how many stories of transformation are, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that we need those kinds of stories because they help us remember that we are not alone in our quest (conscious or not) for a more fully lived life.

American Beauty is basically a Bliss remake; both tell the story of someone living a life they don't know is killing them. They have a revelatory experience and are different from there on out, which turns out to be terribly disruptive. Transformation is like that. It may not be particularly original but it speaks to me. Bliss is more effective for me than the American version, maybe because it's more magical, maybe because the protagonist is just a little less skeevy, maybe because I saw it at the right time. It doesn't real matter. What does matter is that it works for me.

The preview, like most, doesn't do the film justice, but here it is anyway. If you want to watch the movie in whole, you can find it in three parts on youtube. The first is here.

I'd love to know what movies hit you in exactly the right way at exactly the right time and why. Maybe I'll watch a few of them.

This is what 50 looks like. Continuing to be transformed.

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  1. Bliss! We can both thank Ned for that one (and for tuning me into Dead Can Dance and This Mortal Coil). Ned B, Spotify of the 80's.

    1. Absolutely! And Knight Riders, which led me to Brother Blue which led me to the rest of my life.
      I hope you and yours are well!

  2. The two of you had a profound effect on my life as well. I used to think of us as the three sages of Earth House. That was back in my Taoism days, of course. Great to read myself back to those halcyon days of exploration and conversation. Love to you both.


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