Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Movie Mania

One of the things I missed most when I came to San Miguel was film. Movies were always part of my life.

I was a little girl, maybe five, the first time we went to the movies to see Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte in Carmen Jones. We went right after church, dressed in our Sunday best. We couldn’t go see our Negro movies stars in everyday clothes. That would be insulting. Dorothy slithered and strutted so that even Granddaddy, who was as straight up and down and they came, ogled her. She strutted across the screen singing, “I go for you and I’m taboo.” All three women, Grandma, Aunt Hazel and Mama, transferred Harry’s seething desire for Dorothy to themselves. They vibrated at a high frequency during dinner that night.

The movies I watched were light fare until I took a foreign film class in college freshman year —once a week at the theatre on 6th Avenue, opposite West 3rd Street. Our class met in the morning before the theatre opened to the public. These movies were slower, had less dialogue. Directors, not the actors, were the stars of these films: Kurosawa, who showed me that perspective is everything; Fellini, blending seemingly discordant elements; Godard, who mixed popular American culture with Marxist ideas; Truffaut, who exposed my na├»ve seventeen-year-old self to a tragic love triangle; and Bergman, my favorite, who coaxed the most amazing performance I’d ever seen by an actress from Liv Ullmann in Face to Face. Movies take me to other worlds, something I’ve needed to do more and more since Trump became the president. Thank God we have them now in San Miguel.

When I arrived almost twelve years ago there were none—well not exactly. There was one movie theatre in the old Gigante mall that primarily showcased blockbusters, a hotel in Centro, the Jacaranda, which projected classics on a pull-down screen, and a poorly stocked Blockbuster store. I caught as many movies as I could when I was in the States, friends sent bootlegs from New York but me, the woman who saw everything, had seen less than a quarter of the films nominated for Globes and Academies my first year in San Miguel—something else that made me feel disconnected from old life.

Then the bootlegs came. Initially I resisted. I wouldn’t buy them in the States because I thought it was fundamentally wrong to profit from someone’s creation without paying them. And lots of my friends were actor and musicians who needed their royalties. But I quickly abandoned my scruples. I remembered something one of my aunts said when she was in her 80s, “Cyn, you trade-in some of your righteousness for pleasure when you get older,” and made that my rational for abandoning my principles. Movies bring me pleasure and I need all I can get now that this misogynistic, ego manic is running America.

Daily I vacillate. How do you categorize what’s happening? Is it a farce or a nightmare? Ben Carson to head HUD (because he’d grown up in a housing project), Scott Prutt, an anti-climate control guy, in charge of the EPA, and Trump’s constant interference with President Obama’s last months of governing.  But regardless of how you label it, I need something everyday to adjust my attitude. A steady dose of alcohol at Christmas parties got me through December. Movies took over in the New Year. In January, the for your consideration DVD copies of Golden Globe and Academy Award nominees started to make their way into our community and my intense movie binge began. The behavioral pivot I was hoping for after the inauguration didn’t happen. My movie consumption doubled. Once the awards season ends bootlegs slow to a trickle and the movie house seldom screens anything I want to see. How will I assuage my soul in February?