What I Did This Summer (A Retrospective of Retrospectives)

Changes have been a-brewing in My Own Private Idaho this summer — breakups, births (not from this broad’s womb, nay), funerals. New people I never would have expected and people I never, ever wished to bid goodbye. That is to say: life.

And though I’ve not been in the, uh, state, to talk much, I’ve surely done what I’ve always done when the going gets tough: This semi-tough broad has lost it at the movies.

Yeth, it was an inarguably dour summer at both the cineplex and the art house; how else to explain the hoo-ha generated by the nothing-to-write-home-about Little Miss Sunshine, even given its admittedly winning cast? But just as contemporary film proved too bracing for my frazzled nerves, I finally fell, limbs akimbo, appropriately enough, for the silents. It’s hard to believe I resisted their charms as long as I did, given my oft-professed disdain for the overall volume of contemporary film—the too-Klever prattle; the soundtrack over-reliance — not to mention how much I dig the physical comedy and tic-y melodrama (o Spanish film; how I love thee). Chalk it up to my stubborn resistance to black-and-whites, which, I am pleased to report, I also have finally conquered. The trick: see’em all on the big screen. Much more so than technicolors, black-and-whities require a big screen to enliven their particular geometry of contrasts. No doubt there exist cinephiles far loftier than I who could relish Grapes of Wrath’s sour pleasures on a video IPod but, sisters and brothers, count me out.

So it’s been Retrospective summer — anything screening in NYC, from the early Hitchcocks (his style-over-substance works best nonverbally anyway) to the Frank Borzages to anything starring Our Miss Louise Brooks. The gorgeous staginess, the eyebrow waggling when I least expected it, the unmitigated emotionality that animals more than humans typically exhibit (true!): herein lie this summer’s only sweet relief.

Also of note: Film Forum’s Billy Wilder series sealed the deal for me: His Royal Filmic Puck was the greatest comedic director that ever danced down the world’s aisles. I may not officially be a listmaker, but The Apartment dwells forever in my Top Ten In The Sky.

And: After enduring the bulk of the Museum of Moving Image’s Kubrick retrospective — as well as a bona-fide StanleyK lecture (talk about earning my m-fing Hoodsie points) — I’ve concluded once and for all that his chilly disdain for humanity, especially for women with their messy biology and demands, limited the value of his work. I feel about him the way I suspect he felt about beautiful women: nice to look at but not so much upstairs. Especially taken in bulk, however, his films proved so much wryer than I ever would have guessed.

God love such details. The older I get, the more heartily I believe they really are what keeps us keep-on-keepin’ on.

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