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Three score and ten or more

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No complaints here.

A couple of nights ago, I had just finished a late filing of my income tax (even with an automatic extension) and I collapsed into bed.  I checked the tube for a brief visit with the news and found it so depressing I flipped along until I could find something interesting.  I tuned into Public Television and they were showing Gene Kelly movies in honor of his hundredth birthday.  I fell into the middle of one of my favorite films of all time, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, where I arrived just before my favorite part, the part I call the AMERICAN IN PARIS ballet.  I was caught up in, what has always seemed to me to be an almost flawless telling of a story and revealing a wide variety of emotions in dance.

Most of this ballet is actually revealed as a dream sequence, or reverie that begins with Kelly discovering that his love is committed  to marry one of his best friends.  The ballet begins when Kelly, in response to his pain, decides to take a beautiful blonde who is one of his sponsors as an artist to a wild artist costume bacchanal where he encounters his love with her fiancé and says a final goodbye.   The remainder of the scene (about twenty five or thirty minutes) is his reverie about the possibilities and failures of his love life.

I watched, enthralled, and when the film had its inevitable and somewhat illogical,  happy ending I was left in a great mood.  If not for the likelihood of assassination or at least attack by my wife (and the fact that I was totally exhausted) I would have styed awake all night to watch SINGING IN THE RAIN,  and a couple of other Kelly movies.  As I turned  of the TV,  I reflected on one of the great lessons I learned from this film.

In the early sixties, when I was teaching theatre at Rhode Island College in  Providence R.I. I spent some time in one of my classes using this film and this scene as a great example of  American movie musicals.  I had one student in particular, a very bright and artistic young man who came to my office to discuss this in more detail.  I had a shooting script for the film in my office and we went though it in detail.  He was so taken by the ideas, that he located a showing of the film (in that  pre-computer day, I have no idea how he did so) and drove an hour or so into Connecticut to see it.  He came to my office a few days later, and revealed that he had a terrible experience in the film.  He found the shifts of character and costume in the middle of the sequence jarring and ultimately alternated between boredom and irritation as he watched.   He used specific examples and specific criticisms and was very disappointed that I had set him up for this.

As I listened, I understood something that I had perceived , but never really crystalized in my mind before.  It is the ultimate explanation of the way thinking  people simply cannot believe  that other thinking people cannot understand  why their feelings about religious, political, or other important concepts are not shared .

I am conservative.  I once wrote a note to Rush Limbaugh accusing him of distorting conservatism.  I am old enough and have been conservative long enough that I remember being really angry when the Republican Party chose Eisenhower over Bob Taft.  (I know, most of you don’t know what the heck I am talking about) but I have been in theatre most of my life but most of my students, like most theatre people have become wild eyed liberals.  I can’t logically understand why or how they still support Obama and as we interact on Face Book I frequently get notes asking why in the world, I don’t think as they do.

Our interpretations of most things in our lives are colored by our paradigms.  The entire experience  of our lives colors our interpretation of almost all the important phenomena which we encounter.  That is true of my young student in Rhode Island interpreting a musical which I loved and it is true of many who support President Obama while I do not.

I’ll be honest, I am terribly worried about the fate of our country if he is re-elected and people whom I honor and love are equally worried about the nation if he is not.   Janet and I went to a movie the other day called HOPE SPRINGS, which is a movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep ( I  probably spelled that wrong)  trying, with the help of a counselor) to figure out what has happened to their thirty year marriage.  Jan and a laughed till we cried  about their adventures, and most people who have been married a long time would recognize, at least moments of their lives or those of friend.  We recommended it to most of the coots and cootesses that we know, and many of them had seen it and loved it as we did, but one lady, who had attended with her husband almost spit as she expressed her hatred of the film.  She came at it from a different paradigm than Janet and I.  As far as  “truth” is concerned, we are both right.  


At 6:54 AM, Blogger Davoh said...

Nice t know that yer still alive.
(yer, i know, we're all on the verge - some more that most).


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