All hail winter solstice–the longest night pierced by the greatest light. To me, this is truly the most magical day of the year, for to find our way out of such looming darkness we must summon extraordinary power. Miracles, in fact. Early Christians decided to celebrate Jesus’ birthday this time of year not just to override the pagans (blergh) but because they recognized that we must be most pregnant with faith when the sunlight is at its sparses, when the earth its most barren. This is the faith that creates nothing from something–that grants Mary her immaculate birth, that keeps the oil burning for eight days for the Maccabees. It is the same faith that reminds us love can subsume even the worst of black holes. Here, at this turning point of the year and of our country, on this hardest and holiest of days, we are in dire need of such faith. We must listen, we must light, and we must love. All my heart to each of yours.
I’m nearing the finish line of the first draft of my book and it’s filling me with a terrible anxiety. I’ve gone totally broke while writing this. I’m unearthed stories about my past that irrevocably have changed my present and maybe my future. Some alliances haven’t survived; others have formed or reformed. And there are so many questions I’ve put off until now: Will anyone give a fuck about this story? being the first and foremost.
Years ago, I saw Jacques Tati’s Playtime in 70mm on the enormous screen of Champagne, Illinois’ Virginia Theater. I’d just dashed in from a spring thunderstorm that had liberated me from a fussy outdoor cocktail party, and the film’s awkward, swooping grace–alternately eager and morose, denatured and abloom–was just what the doctor ordered. I thought I’d never find a more ideal context in which to see the 1967 masterpiece, but on this very cold Thanksgiving, I ducked into a morning screening at the Lower East Side’s Metrograph. Shoulder to shoulder with other refugees from the most family-oriented, ideologically ill-conceived holiday of the year, I didn’t just feel community. I felt communion.
Tati mounted an entire mid-20th century cosmopolis outside of Paris for his poker-faced pratfall in gloriously technicolor drab, and its mostly noverbal story is conveyed so lucidly that the few spoken lines and handful of languages in which they are uttered are virtually irrelevant. Following a host of mid-‘60s characters through one day in this sound-stage Paris, the film’s protagonist is the human race itself as seen through a National Geographic sort of lens. As stylized as a Buster Keaton jig with Ayn Rand sharp corners and floppy flowered hats, every moment recalls the very droll mis-en-scenes buried in more narrative-driven films of the same era. Imagine a whole film cut from the same swoon as that infamous Breakfast at Tiffany’s party scene–the heiresses, vamps, barking agents, woman laughing, woman crying, treacherously long cigarette holder, prowling Cat, and Irving baby, o Irving baby. (Imagine a life cut of that cloth as well.) Continue Reading →