Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Book Review: The Film Club

David Gilmour seems like a weird guy who feels like he came out of an 80s movie about life in Hollywood.  His strange, loving relationship with his ex-wife, his reaction to his son’s downward spiral of school based frustration, and his trip to Cuba.  Who lives like this?  At least he doesn’t seem to be trying to paint an overly positive picture of himself, and he is Canadian (they’re not like us…shhh!).  Still, the movie buff in me completely understands his attempt to reach another human being through the shared experience of cinematic storytelling.  There is a rawness, an opening of the heart, when you share a movie you care about with someone.  You hope that maybe they’ll feel a bit of the magic you did, or that maybe they’ll understand you in a new way you couldn’t vocalize.  And you fear that they’ll cruelly dismiss it, or even worse, not like the new understanding of you that they have.  (Seriously, watch In a Lonely Place, and you get a pretty accurate glimpse into who I am…And not the good parts).

“It was a funereal summer day, muggy and full of unattractive people.”

I had a fantastic ‘Ah ha!!!’ moment when reading about his son’s cold viewing of Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  I get so much crap for saying that Audrey Hepburn is playing a whore in the movie, but this kid totally gets it.  When you watch the movie without everyone’s cultural baggage about how amazing Audrey was, and how great Moon River is, and all that, the movie really is about a couple of prostitutes, selling themselves for a bit of money.  It’s not romantic; it’s kind of sick and sad.  I was so glad to see that someone else out there sees the film the same way I do.  “Holly Golightly a hooker?”  Yup.

Five quid for a party?

Gilmour does go on at length about Brando (and James Dean), which is one of my pet peeves.  Look, taste is taste.  I get that.  And sometimes things happen that alter the way things are done.  I get that.  But like Birth of a Nation marked a tectonic shift in film and still remains a cultural stain of shame, so Brando changed acting and remains an ugly mark on film.  For me, the movie that really made him famous, On the Waterfront, is deeply marred by his jarringly incongruous performance, where he seems like some addled drifter who wandered onto the set and everyone was just too afraid to say anything, so they kept filming.  Still, film critics love the guy.  And I guess, like Jackson Pollock, Bob Dylan, and Kurt Vonnegut, I just don’t get what all the fuss is about.

“I slipped Michael Mann’s Thief into the DVD like it was a nine millimeter clip.”

Gilmour does have a way with words, which sometimes gives his memoir an artificiality I found off-putting.  But he also has nuggets of sublime.  I found his description of time spent with a former lover; “We had committed such middle-of-the night intimacies, she and I, private things said, private things done…” to be especially affecting.  When people get close, letting down all those emotional defenses, they create secret languages of shared moments.  One of the most profound pains I’ve felt was the realization that those intimacies were at an end.  The various comforts of a relationship can be recreated with someone else, but the specific secret languages are lost to all but memory.  Actually, for a book about watching movies with a disaffected son, it has a lot about relationships, and the struggles men and boys have dealing with women and girls.  The soul blasting horror in the aftermath of a break-up, that woman you can never really have (because she doesn’t really exist), the way you can never say what you mean when it’s most important, the way you can’t help but imagine her with other men and the horror that accompanies those thoughts.  Ugly pain that settles in your bones.  Dang.  Dredged up a lot of old memories and old pains.  I don’t remember my first kiss.  But I remember breaking up with her, and it was messy.  When Gilmour refers to the times women have hurt him as “a half dozen stabbings at close range,” it rings plenty true.

“You can’t be with a woman you can’t go to the movies with.”

Whatever faults the book might have, it is clearly captivating, as I sat down to it at around 7PM on a Friday after work, and finished it about six hours later.  I’m not a one-sitting reader.  I tend to pick away at books for a week or three or eight (balancing four or five at any one time).  Granted, the book isn’t long, but it’s long enough to make my quick reading of it unusual.  And it is ultimately uplifting, which was nice.

The Film Club
Author: David Gilmour
Publisher: Twelve
ISBN: 978-0-446-19929-2


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