Archive | Weather Matters

On This Cold Brooklyn Morn

Got up with the roosters, pulled on myriad layers of wool and fur, and bustled down to the coffee shop to swig Americanos with my Muppet critics, who sorted out all my problems, bada bing, bada boom. So bolstered, I ventured to Red Hook while it was early enough to fetch my Fairway Thanksgluttony with less fuss than blunderbuss. Indeed, the bagels were still hot, the aisles still relatively unfettered, and I breezed through so quickly there was even time to flirt with the cute families already underfoot, not to mention Lady Liberty, who waved like a proud mama from across the waterway. Driving home I followed the East River as the sun danced upon its big-wind crests, and I thought: Sweet Brooklyn, you really are my heart.

Almost All Souls’ Day

Lonely Coney Island on the first day of November: the seagulls now rule the school; the beach is shockingly swept; the borscht and blintzes are still there for the taking. We removed what litter we found; made wishes on shells we, a little shyly, gave back to the sea. The wind whipped around us with great gusto; the sun dipped in and out of sight; and the rides, now abandoned, stood still, like dogs awaiting unreliable masters. In Brighton Beach, we found half-sour pickles, caviar, black bread, and, finally, prune chocolates, the candy forever in my grandparents’ blue dish, the Proustian madeleines of my half-Jewish wilderness of a childhood.

L’avventura and a New York Summer, Naturally

I spent two of yesterday’s most sweltering hours at New York City’s Film Forum, transported to the big black-and-white glamour of L’avventura, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1960 travelogue. Many of my colleagues swoon over this film’s contribution to film grammar, its exploration of the myriad faces of love, and they’re right to do so. I sat amongst some of them yesterday and their faces looked uncharacteristically sweet, even innocent, as they watched, rapt, in that screening room. That innocence is part of why I gladly, worshipfully surrender to the Italian director’s films again and again, especially in summer. In his still and silent and perfectly framed worlds dwell the purest respite I know outside of actual nature.
For Antonioni’s films almost—almost—compensate for the terrible swamp that New York invariably becomes every summer. I know many who sing New York summers’ praises, and when I was young I was one of them. To people’s complaints that they missed nature in New York, I’d reply that in New York we humans were the nature. I still think that’s true. Bumping against each other with virtually no personal space, we prowl about, sniffing each other’s butts, brandishing our feathers and guarding our turf as fiercely as any beast in the wild. If our jungle happens to be concrete, what of it?
But every year I feel less charmed by the gorgeous mistakes we New Yorkers tend to make in our unbearably hot summers—by our flaring passions, our sticky bodies, our business exposed every which way. I long instead for the one thing that’s hard to order up in this crazy apple unless you’re on a billionaire’s budget: quiet. A silence, uninterrupted by anything except for the ripple of a pond, the warble of a bird, the rustle of wind snaking through trees. Maybe the ice clinking in your glass.
A reverent hush used to prevail in movie theaters no matter what was playing but now the volume of soundtrack-booming movies and moviehouse attendees can deafen you. Sometimes that’s a good thing. Nothing is more glorious than the denizens of Downtown Brooklyn dancing along to Step Up, and what would a crash-and-burner like Fast and Furious 6 be without the satisfying crunch of metal? But mostly the noisiness of a movie-going experience makes me feel like I’m in the middle of Times Square. Today.
L’avventura doesn’t, though. About a woman and man who fall in love while searching for his missing girlfriend, the movie is blessedly quiet, as if it doesn’t wish to miss any detail of its own sensuality. And nor should it. Antonioni’s characters are always animalistic—nearly mute in their raw expressions of envy, sorrow, fury, desire—and thereby even more purely human. With L’avventura as with all of his films, plot is to some degree besides the point and time moves glacially, if at all. What matters is staying as present as a cat, as a child, as a lover, as a beginning and as an ending. And that entails listening as well as looking.
There in Film Forum yesterday I succumbed happily and wholly to the roar of the ocean, to the shadows cast by lovers kissing against a sea wall, to the whisper of bedsheets against a woman’s skin, to the ecstasy of her legs, nude, as they kicked in the air, and to the click of her shoes upon the cobblestones of a city street. It all looked and sounded wonderfully cool and even more wonderfully lonely. Much like nature herself.
L’avventura can be seen in a lush 35mm restoration at Film Forum July 12-25. Go see it.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy