Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Phlegm Monster Rises

Hello, out there in blogland.  I have been MIA for quite a while due to the fact that I've been a gurgling, repulsive phlegm monster from hell.  I caught a hideous flu that's going around and it went into my lungs.  When that happens, at least bronchitis and usually pneumonia follows, so I've been a train wreck for a couple weeks.  However, my lungs are breathing again with only a little purring so I can sit and type without wanting to claw my throat apart. 

I've been watching a lot of movies while convalescing, either embroidering while propped up on stacks of pillows in bed or just lying there with a hot water bottle and castor oil compress on my chest. It got me to thinking about the comfort of film.  In pretty much all of the traumatic periods of my adult life, movies have always been a soothing balm to me.  It's interesting to look back and analyze my choices during such times, to try and figure out why that particular film for that particular miserable event.  Believe me, I'm such a film fanatic that I watch movies all the time anyway, happy or sad, but when I'm lost and drowning in anxiety, sadness or just plain pissed off, I often pick strange movies to soothe me.  For instance, when I miscarried the second time and almost killed myself,  I watched True Lies and Terminator.  When I was recovering from my hysterectomy, I watched the old movie Forty Carats with Liv Ullman.  While my son was in rehab, it was the Colin Firth miniseries Pride & Prejudice.  When Leland was gone and I lost my home, Little Lord Fauntleroy with Freddie Bartholomew and The Big Country with Gregory Peck.  When my mom almost died, Ghostbusters, The Secret of Roan Inish and David Copperfield (again, Freddie Bartholomew).  When my dad almost died, Sling Blade and Disney flicks.  Like I said, strange choices. 

I watch these comfort films over and over again, sometimes two or three times a day.  Each time I'll focus on a different part: the first time, I'll watch it for the story.  The second and third times, for the aesthetics of the cinematography, costumes and set design.  After that, I concentrate on one actor at a time and watch only them.  Very obsessive, but comforting to my strange brain.  Even I don't know why I choose a particular film.  I'll just pick something that calls to me in my ginormous collection and put it in the DVD player.  The art of film is like a stroll through a beautiful museum to me.  I study a movie the same way I study a sculpture or painting.  I have to see everything.  When you view it that way, the movie is always fresh because there's always something you didn't pay attention to, an expression or gesture that was just background before. 

The first film I ever tried to analyze as a choice during trauma was Little Lord Fauntleroy.  I'd lost my son, lost my business, my home and my job, no car, no money, no nothing, back living with my mom and forty years old.  I was pretty much broken.  I puttered around Mom's house, doing yard work, cooking and cleaning, writing maudlin crap on the computer and working on the one art commission that kept me barely solvent.  In between, I watched Little Lord Fauntleroy.  It's a cheesy little movie, very endearing, from the famous book.  Around the twentieth viewing, I began to wonder what the hell it was about this movie that so held me.  At first I thought it was because the kid loved his mother.  My son hated me.  But no, that wasn't the draw.  Then I thought it was because everything worked out so nicely in the end.  That wasn't it either.  So I began to study each scene, trying to figure out the Chinese puzzle of its attraction for me right then, at that time, the lowest period of my life.  Why?  What was it about this movie that kept me from killing myself, which is what I often thought about, or vomiting in the bathroom from nerves due to the last two years of hell, something I did often as well?  So Little Lord Fauntleroy became therapy, a window into my screwed up brain.  Finally, the epiphany.  It wasn't that the boy loved him mom and mine didn't.  It wasn't that they were financially taken care of, or decadence wasn't able to corrupt the kid because he had a strong tie to his mom, or that the boy's goodness brought the old bastard of a grandfather around in the end.  It was the mother's sacrifice.  Her son was everything to her and she sacrificed everything for him.  She wasn't even allowed to see him, just as I wasn't allowed to see my son.  She endured it for the sake of her boy.  For love of him and his future, she gave up everything.  I felt a kinship to the mother for that reason.

After I figured that out, I lost interest and stopped watching it.  I had been comforted by the company of a celluloid figure long dead, as Shakespeare and Harlequin Romances comforted me with graceful words or silly, happy endings.  It's like Shirley Temple's popularity during the Great Depression.  A lovely bit of truth and goodness and a frilly dress.  Nothing like it.

Take care, All, and go watch a flick tonight!  Something cheesy and marvelous.  I'm contemplating Pat & Mike.  That's a great one.

Love, R

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