Friday, August 3, 2007

Blind Spot Faith

I strongly disagree with the maxim that one "can never be too rich or too thin", but I'm on the fence about whether you can become too well-read, too musically well-listened or too cinematically well-viewed. On one hand, there's only so many hours in a life, and the more "completist" one becomes in any one category of audio/visual consumption seemingly has to mean neglect of the others (not to mention its impact on human relationships).

But on the other, can't the quixotic* impulse to read all the great books or listen to all the great music or see all the great movies be an enormously productive and propulsive inclination to give in to?

I've never heard of anyone dedicated to somehow working all the great jobs the world has to offer, and really, aren't we spending such an inordinate amount of our life working to ensure that we'll always be able to afford the relative sliver spent reading, watching movies or listening to music?

why are people always better looking in b&w?

All of this began bouncing 'round my coconut while reading "An Appreciation" of recently deceased Italian director Michelangeo Antonioni in the Calendar section of today's LA TIMES. As Death would have it, the 94 year-old Antonioni died July 30, a single day after the death of 89 year-old Swedish director Ingmar Bergman, another giant of world cinema.

When the I-have-no-say-in-this-free-association ball stopped bouncing, I was surprised to be thinking of Austrian director Fred Zinneman.

Way back in 1996, I was working as the development and personal assistant to British director Michael Radford. It was a very mercurial job: BEFORE the Nominations for the 68th Academy Awards were announced, Radford was "the guy who directed the 80's version of 1984". AFTER that very early morning in January, when Miramax wrung an amazing five Oscar nominations (including one for Best Director) out of Radford's Italian-language film IL POSTINO, Radford became a far different entity altogether.

Harvey and Bob spun gold out of Troisi's tragic death.

Perhaps I'll go into detail about working for Radford some other day, but for now it was our exchange about Fred Zinneman that's important.

I went to a screening last night of HIGH NOON. Have you ever seen High Noon?

Ah, actually, no. I've read a lot about it and--

Do you even know who Fred Zinneman is?

Well, to be honest, no. Should I?

Saying that was a HUGE tactical error.

Are you SERIOUS? I can't believe it!
What are they teaching you over here?
Fred Zinneman is only the most...

Needless to say, I was wishing I hadn't picked a ninth viewing of HOLY GRAIL or BLAZING SADDLES** over renting the 1952 Western starring Gary Cooper.

But as my face turned redder and he had his fun scoffing my ignorance, I got to thinking about all the great films in the canon I HAD seen. And then I wondered how many if-you-haven't-seen-it-you're-clearly-a-dilettante-poseur films a twentysomething assistant was SUPPOSED to have seen.

And that feeling has stuck with me over the years.

Because I loathe it when someone gives me the exaggerated "I'm SHOCKED and DISAPPOINTED!" eye bulge when they hear I haven't read this or I'm not familiar with that, I pledged to cut the people I encounter a little slack when I discover they've gone their entire lives without experiencing first-hand a record or film that I hold dear.

As you may know, that approach ain't always easy.

Steering this behemoth back towards the point, the above decade-old conversation resurfaced because as I read Antonioni's obit, I realized that I'd only seen two of the movies he'd directed in his 60 years behind the camera- L'AVVENTURA (1960) and BLOW UP (1966). Bergman? Only one, 1957's THE SEVENTH SEAL.

"Mongo is but pawn in game of life."

Does this reveal mean I should be stripped of my Movie Buff status? Or should I be glad that I have virtually the entire filmography of two master directors yet to explore and (perhaps) enjoy?

I vote for the latter. Maybe someone admitting (under duress or otherwise) that blind spots exist in their personal experience of ANY medium should be seen as a happy occasion to turn someone on to the shit they NEED to see, toute de suite.

After all, we've all got 'em. Imagine the shattering despondence someone (a vampire?) might feel when they turned the final page of the last really good book on Earth that they hadn't read. The confession of a Blind Spot is a good indicator that someone's still alive.

After all, they easily could have lied about it to you and changed the subject.

*Full disclosure: I haven't even read Cervates' DON QUIXOTE, even though "quixotic" is one of my favorite words.

** When I finally did see
HIGH NOON, I was stunned to discover that Mel Brooks copied its structure almost scene for scene for BLAZING SADDLES. So there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought you really had seen EVERY movie ever. Still, the ability to get mongo in a joke about the seventh seal has to count for something. Chin up mr. word guy, you're doing just fine.