Saturday snapshots

— The morning was chilly and grey, with a wind whipping through my open window, waking me up before my alarm. My favorite kind of weather. I start to come alive in the fall. I start to feel most like myself in the fall, my best self. Allison and I talked about that a lot yesterday, because the weather was just so insistently beautiful we couldn’t not talk about it.

— I took a run in the damp windy morning. Prince blasting in my ears.

— Of course my whole consciousness from the moment I woke up was: “Reds, Reds, Reds, Reds, Reds, Reds … The most exciting part (for me) is that Allison was coming with me and she had never seen it before. You know the THRILL when someone you love is introduced to something you love – and you just KNOW that they will love that thing too? (And you know how hard it is sometimes to write with good grammar? Yeah, that too). I should write a post sometime about my friendship with Allison and how so much of it is one of us saying to the other: “Okay, you have to see this movie, and I kind of need to BE THERE when you see it.” It’s one of our favorite things to do with each other. She has introduced me to some wonderful movies (but there are also such funny moments – on both sides – when we’re watching the movie and kind of checking in with the other, like, ‘Do ya love it? See??? Don’t you love it??????’ hahahaha It’s such a THING we have and it’s so funny to me. We now make promises to each other, “Okay, so when we see this movie, I promise I won’t be all in your face, making sure you love it.” But then of course – we can’t keep that promise. We’re way too enthusiastic about the things that we love, and also just way too excited to show them to each other.) So this one was a biggie. I knew I was going to have to totally control myself to not be all in her face during the movie, being like: “Isn’t this AMAZING??????” So exciting.

— I headed into the city. It was so chilly that I wore a scarf. Glory!!

— But by the time I made it down to Greenwich Village – the clouds had moved on – leaving the day sun-warm, glowing, and autumnal. It’s our most beautiful day in this fall season so far. All of New York seemed to be out and about, enjoying the weather. People playing chess in the park, people walking their dogs, rolling their babies around … There was a line down the block at Magnolia Cafe, and the sugary smell of the cupcakes wafted out onto the street. I’m not a cupcake girl, I would never STAND IN LINE for a cupcake (if there were a Wheat Thin Cafe, I might stand in line for THAT) … but I love that there are people in the world who love cupcakes so much, and who know a good cupcake when they taste one, and so are willing to stand in line for half an hour in order to get one. Beauty!!

— Before I went to Allison’s, I stopped off at the bookstore across from her apartment. I couldn’t help myself. It’s one of my favorite bookstores in the city – it’s tiny, cramped, with books piled every which way – but they have everything. Everything. Somehow they manage to cram an awesome selection (with great sale prices) into this teeny space. And I bought a bunch of books. It’s been a couple of months since I indulged in my book-buying problem so I figured I was entitled. I bought:

The Historian by Elizabeth Raskolnikov (or whatever her last name is. I figure it’s time to see what all the fuss is about. It looks fantastic. Cold War Europe? Eastern Block? Vampires? Vlad the Impaler? I’m already in.)

Prep: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (I think. Jessa from Book Slut has been raving about it – and I’m not really into new fiction, not really – so I thought: Okay, I’ll give this a try. It looks fantastic)

Because They Wanted to: Stories by Mary Gaitskill (Jon has paid me the ultimate compliment by comparing my writing to hers – she’s one of my writing idols – and I still haven’t read her latest novel – but I couldn’t find her latest in the teeny bookstore – but they did have this collection of short stories I hadn’t read before. So I got that. Time to get inspired, ratchet up the writing a bit)

Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters. One of my favorites – and somewhere along the line – with all my moving and crap – I lost my copy. This one was on sale so I bought it. In undergraduate acting class, our teacher made us use these haunting terrible poems as monologues. It was hard, man. Hard shite. I remember the last two lines of my “monologue”:

“I thirsted so for love!
I hungered so for life!”

I look forward to re-reading this book.

Howard Hawks: Interviews (Conversations with Filmmakers). Never even heard of this book but there it was. Can’t WAIT. I love books like this. Can’t have enough of them. There was also a book called John Ford: Interviews (Conversations With Filmmakers Series) but I thought: Okay, this is enough for one day. I’ll come back for that one.

So naturally, now, I would be carrying around 30 pounds of books as Allison and I went about our day. Typical.

— Met up with Allison at her apartment. Her beautiful calm apartment with the soft green walls, the brick wall, the white eyelet cover on her bed – and her sleepy cozy dog (who was devastated because he could tell that Allison was ready to go out WITHOUT HIM … HOW DARE SHE???) and her passive-aggressive cat, sitting on top of the fridge, staring at us with blank aggrieved eyes. Oh, and this is too funny – as we were getting ready to go, the television was on – and it was Animal Planet and there was a show on about hippos. Allison is all about her DVR so she said, “Oh, I’m gonna want to see this later … now watch what I do …” She clicked a button – to record the whole show from the beginning – so she could see the hippos later, on her own time. But at the same time that this was going on – I had opened the door to her apartment, we were getting ready to depart – and in that moment, her cat saw his chance and he took it. He dashed out. And raced up the stairs. Like: where ya goin’ Charley? You’re not gonna get OUT by going UP. So I went after him. Lugging my damn LIBRARY on my back. Up and up and up … Charley, the little brat, would wait on each landing for me, looking right at me, like: Ya gonna catch me? Ya gonna catch me? And just as I would catch up with him, he would take off up the next flight. Brat! Finally, he was at the damn top of the building – nowhere to go – the door to the roof was right there – so as I approached, he lay himself down on the floor, tryiing to make himself as flat and unobtrusive as possible. Hysterical. Like: I can still see you Charley. You are not now two-dimensional, even though you seem to have a fantasy that you are!! I scooped him up in my arms and started back down. Charley submitted for about 2 flights, he lay in my arms, completely despondent, his paws sticking out into the blank air … and eventually, he just could not deal with the indignity and the unfairness of his situation. He made a horrible deep-throat growling sound, almost like a moan – you could just hear the anger in that sound. He started squirming, flinging his body about. He hated me SO MUCH. “I know, Charley, I know … it’s just so awful …” I arrived back at Allison’s and deposited him on the floor. He immediately crawled under the table, to ponder the horrible nature of his own situation. And then Allison and I took off – opening the door again – and scurrying out – yes, SCURRYING – so that Charley couldn’t escape again. “Close the door, close the door, close the door …” It was a getaway. But the funniest thing, and why I’m writing about me chasing Charley – is that in the time I was gone – Allison somehow managed to become an expert on hippos. We were walking down her street – and she said, “I’m so excited to see that show on hippos. Did you know that they nurse their babies under water? Sometimes it’s hard to find the right position so that the baby can find the teat under water – but that’s how they do it. I’m not sure how the baby breathes … but that’s how hippos nurse.” I was listening to this, not even questioning the fact that Allison somehow knew a lot about hippos. I was like, “Really? I had no idea ….” Finally I asked, “How do you know all this?” Allison said, “While you were chasing Charley – that’s what they said on the show.” Which somehow just struck me as SO FUNNY. I was out of the apartment for a total of 25 seconds, and in that time Allison had assimilated all of these random facts about hippos, which, 5 minutes later, she was spouting out of her mouth as though she had known these facts all her life. We were howling!!

— Oh, and as we were going down her stairs to the street, we met up with a guy who was holding a big clunky old-fashioned movie camera. Like – a kind that needs FILM. Allison is a camera afficianado so she said, “God, what an amazing camera … what kind is it?” The guy (who, I’m sorry, was just a hot dude – of the BLURPIEST KIND. I love me my blurpy man!!) stopped and said, “It’s the kind of camera that eats hundred-dollar bills.” We burst out laughing – and then we stood on the stoop of Allison’s building – with the cupcake line stretching off into the distance – and talked with him for a while about his camera, and is he doing a documentary, and what kind of film does he uses … The nicest thing about it was how open he was to just standing there and talking with us. People in New York are always in such a hurry. It was nice to just stand and talk with him, and not feel like he was itching to get away from us. Also, I kind of wanted to kiss him. And that’s just the fact. Blurpy men holding old-fashioned movie cameras are okay by me.

— So Allison and I headed off for the east side – talking about hippopotamuses the whole way.

— We also just raved about the weather, we just kept talking about it. How we feel this surge of energy in the fall, how it’s our favorite time of year … At some point, a huge bug flew right into my mouth. That was a terrible experience. I mean, it really was. I’m still not really over it.

— We picked up our tickets at the theatre. We had half an hour til the movie started – and we raced off to find something to eat, and quick. Since we would be descending into this 4 hour extravaganza.

— We sat at a cute little restaurant – with dark wood walls, and black and white tile … Our waitress hated us with an intensity that burned like a laser, because we were rushing her. We guzzled down a glass of wine a piece, Allison ordered a pizza – inhaled a slice – and then it was 3:10 and I was jittery ants in my pants girl – “Please! Let’s go! Now! I don’t want to miss a second!” Allison asked our ANGRY WAITRESS for a box to take the pizza in (ohmygod, she hated us so much, words can’t even describe it) – so Allison put all of the slices into a pizza box. The box was obviously a pizza box. It said on it in bright red letters: PIZZA. Like, there was no camouflaging it. Allison was like, “Now … do you think they won’t let me take this into the theatre?” I was howling. “Uhm, yeah, they’re not gonna let you take pizza in …” Allison, joking, “But … they won’t know it’s a pizza!” Holding the box up, so you could totally see the huge red letters: P I Z Z A. “How will they know it’s a pizza?” As we hurried to the theatre, kind of hysterical, truth be told – Allison wrapped her jacket around the pizza box, and held it under her arm, and said to me, “Does this look really obvious?” I glanced at her, and BURST into laughter. Because it so clearly looked like a pizza box wrapped in a jacket. hahahahahahaha But hey, we breezed right by the ticket dude with no problem. Allison murmuring to me as we walked by them, “See? See?”

— Village East cinema is gorgeous – I love love love seeing movies there. It’s almost like … the freakin’ Alhambra or something. Moorish architecture – tiles, and weird mosaics – and the main theatre is MASSIVE – with a balcony. We sat in the balcony.

— Oh, I forgot to tell this part. As we gulped down our wine in a frenzy, Allison said, “Okay, so I know nothing about this movie and I don’t really know about the Russian revolution either – so tell me about it.” So in the 20 minutes we had, I gave her a bullet-point version of the Russian revolution. I wish I had a transcript of what I said. It was ridiculous. “Okay, so the Bolsheviks came to power … but there was infighting with the provisional government … and then there was fight between the IWW and the AF of L … and socialists round the world were looking for validation from the Soviets … and in 1917 was the revoluton … and the Bolsheviks tramped through the Winter Palace … oh, and of course the czar and his family was gunned to death in a basement in Ekaterinburg … and John Reed wrote this amazing book called 10 Days The Shook the World …” I think I did a pretty good job, actually, in the limited time we had, with our fuming waitress slamming down our wine glasses in front of us. The Russian Revolution boiled down to a 20 minute summary. All those books I read are actually good for somethin’! Allison knew a lot of this shit already, of course – she is on a tear through biographies of people who lived through this period in history. She’s now reading the Lindbergh biography by Scott Berg – and before that she read a massive biography of William Randolph Hearst … That whole time in history – early 20th century into the 40s – is her passion. I told her she has to read 10 Days the Shook the World – just to see what all the fuss was about, and why journalists still revere John Reed as one of the best practicers of their craft. He is a marvelous writer. Kind of can’t be touched. People imitate him to this day. Whatever you think of his views … it’s irrelevant. I’m talking about his skill as a writer. It cannot be denied. Great book. It just lives and breathes … it’s so first-hand.

— Then we raced to the theatre with our camouflaged pizza box.

— Found seats in the balcony. The place was packed. And you know how you can sense anticipation in the air? Like … when you know you’re not alone in your passion? I felt it at the NY Historical society a couple weeks ago – before the Alexander Hamilton night. The place was packed – and you just could feel that this was a crowd who was also totally passionate about the topic at hand. I love that feeling. Allison had raced downstairs to get some popcorn – and the movie started at that point. She actually missed this whole drama with this woman who was talking – and LOUDLY – through the first minute and a half of the movie. Literally: BLABBING HER HEAD OFF. At first people were like, “Sh”. I was also a “Sh”er. But she ignored the ‘sh”ing and kept BLABBING. Finally, people were shouting (from below, and from in the balcony): “DAMMIT. SHUT UP.” Finally, she shut the fuck up. Moron. Clueless freakin’ moron. But I loved it, in a way, because I felt like: Okay. I can work with this audience. Me and the rest of this audience? We’re like THIS. We are in SYNC. Everyone was so INTO the experience … and this woman was ruining it for all of us. So we joined forces and shamed her into shutting her big stupid mouth. Yay!!

— Then Allison came back and we both settled in to just LIVING this movie.

— I had two levels of consciousness going on … 1. Experiencing the movie, on the big screen. Okay, no 3 levels. There was the “wow, look at it on the big-screen” level. 2. Enjoying the movie as though it was the first time. I’ve seen it so many times that I know vast swathes of it by heart, I know every scene, and yet – even though there’s this familiarity with the whole thing, it’s still fresh and new and painful and GORGEOUS … no matter how many times I’ve seen it. And lastly: 3. Being aware of Allison next to me, and trying to see it thru her eyes. Loving being there with her, LOVING IT, loving experiencing the film with her. Occasionally she would whisper to me. A couple of times we reached out and grabbed hands. There’s the scene of the fight between Beatty and Keaton – in the Greenwich Village apartment – Mitchell referenced it specifically in one of my posts about Reds, and how amazing the scene is. Beatty and Keaton, were, of course, a couple at the time of filming – and the scene, an argument that escalates – in a way that feels completley chaotic and real – has this feeling of such reality in it – you can feel that it’s John Reed/Louise Byrant/Warren Beatty/Diane Keaton – there’s such REAL emotion between the two of them – you don’t know what is the character, what is the actor – all you know is, it’s a fight that takes your breath away. She is unbeLIEVABLE in it – you feel like she doesn’t know what is going to come out of her mouth next – in the way that you do when you are in a real fight. But she’s UPSET, and he’s UPSET … It’s real. That’s all. It’s REAL. One of my favorite scenes in the film – actually, it’s one of my favorite scenes in ANY film. When the scene finally ended – as they came down into the denouement – the fight subsiding, the hurt and anger dissolving – and the two of them kiss in the dark room, their heads a silhouette against the light window – they have become one – we don’t see two profiles, we just see the two of their heads together, a black cut-out … Gorgeous. Allison whispered, “That’s one of the most amazing scenes I have ever seen.” I reached out and grabbed her hand. It was just so exciting for me to be there as she experienced this.

— I had forgotten how great Paul Sorvino was in this film. Isn’t he terrific? I loved his performance. Truly – there’s the fight that he and Beatty have across the big room of delegates at the Socialist Party meeting – and it’s real – neither of them are letting the other one finish a sentence – I barely know what they’re fighting about – ha – I mean, I do kind of – but what’s great about the movie is that even when you don’t know what’s really going on (and that’s part of the greatness of the film, I think – it doesn’t try to spell everything out – it’s ground-level, it’s happening right in front of us – the way events happen in life. There’s no retrospect in the film – it’s filmed like John Reed’s book. We, in the beginning of the 21st century, know how this all turned out. We know that these people were fighting a losing battle. But they, in the moment, don’t know that – and they play it that way. It’s breathtaking.

— Also I had forgotten how wonderful Gene Hackman is in his 2 scenes. He chews up the scenery, spits it out, and he’s only been on screen for 5 minutes – but he looms large.

— Jack Nicholson does his best work in his career in this film. His subtlest work, his most grown-up work. There’s the great scene when Louise Bryant comes to see Eugene O’Neill in his Greenwich Village apartment – long after their affair has ended. She has been to Russia and has now come back. All a-flame with intensity about what she saw. O’Neill is completely unimpressed. And Nicholson has this dead-on monologue, where he nails her to the wall, basically. He calls her out on her hypocrisy: “You and Jack certainly have middle-class aspirations for a couple of revolutionaries …” And his great line – I can’t remember it word for word – but something like, “You know, it makes me skin crawl when I see an intellectual’s eyes start to gleam when they talk about Russia.” He is indisputably NOT swept away. Louise Bryant requires others to be swept away … it seems essential to her. It’s all very PERSONAL for her and Eugene is having none of it. He is fantastic in this scene. I love the line, “It’s really sad to see that you two have gotten so serious.” She totally gets the wind knocked out of her by him (for the second time – the first time is in that phenomenal scene in Provincetown when he tells her what it would be like if she were with HIM and not Jack Reed). Nicholson is wonderful. Just wonderful.

— Beatty is fantastic. One of the things I really noticed this time around seeing it – maybe because it was on the big-screen – so his work loomed much larger – was how he plays his gradual illness. He is strapping and gorgeous and healthy at the beginning of the film. And of course they film out of sequence – so his gradual sickening, the gradual worsening of his health – had to be handled by Beatty out of sequence. And it’s not like: Oh, one moment he’s healthy, the next he’s sick. No. Jack Reed gets sicker and sicker, progressively, through the film. You can feel him getting worse. Watch Beatty move through the second half of the film. Watch how his body language has changed. And it’s subtle, he’s not limping around like a hunchback – you just can tell that he is managing a low level of pain at all times. His back hurts, his stomach aches, it hurts to piss … he’s not well. And it keeps getting worse, because he is now in Russia, where there’s no fresh produce, and scurvy intensifies, his high blood pressure gets higher … by the end of the film, there’s always a soft gleam of sweat over his face … and also, on the big screen I noticed that in the last part of the film – his lips are always chapped to the degree that they are cracking and bleeding. It’s subtle, again – it’s just part of the character – but Beatty was so good at showing this man descending into illness. It happens AS he is doing other things … which is how sickness happens in real life, usually. He did a marvelous job. Marvelous.

— Jerzy Kosinski as Zinoviev was great.

— Oh, at one point – it’s back in America – and John Reed gets caught up in the infighting of the political parties – he becomes an activist. Again, it’s subtle – not spelled out – but you can see him change. He gets colder. The ends justify the means. The enthusiastic idealistic writer at the beginning of the film is gone forever. He’s now a revolutionary. His humor is gone. And it’s all in how Beatty plays it. The script helps him out … but it’s all in his acting. There was one scene that happened – oh yeah – there’s a meeting at Louise and Jack’s house – and Eddie shows up, and he missed a meeting with someone from an opposing political party. He missed the meeting because his wife was hemorrhaging and he had to watch his kids while she went to the hospital. That actor playing Eddie … He’s got one feckin’ scene and my God. (Looked him up. Jack Kehoe.) He’s wonderful. But anyway, Beatty is enraged that the meeting was missed – “Why didn’t you call one of us to replace you?” Eddie has no answer for it, he can’t even look at Jack. Beatty is relentless. He won’t let up until Eddie has been completely humiliated. Or “pacified” in the word of totalitarian dictatoriships. Pacified. Mm-hmm. “Pacification” means SHUTTING EVERYONE UP. Keaton watches this whole thing, standing back, and her face says it all. She pulls Beatty into the kitchen and says something like, “Don’t you think you were a little hard on Eddie?” Beatty cannot even hear this. He says immediately, “When we get what we want, Eddie will be thankful.” Or something like that. Walks away from her. Allison whispered, “He’s lost his humanity.” Yes. That is exactly what that scene is about. And that’s part of Beatty’s larger point about this revolution, and about revolutions in general.

— And then later in the film – when John Reed is ready to leave Russia (he had traveled there to get recognition for the Communist Labor Party of America) – and Zinoviev (cutting up slices of lemon in his huge drafty office in an empty room of the Winter Palace – you can feel how cold it is in that palace, you can just feel how nothing works) won’t let him leave. Zinoviev tells him he is needed in Russia in the propaganda department. The revolution has called him. He cannot turn back now. “You can always go back to your wife. But you can never come back to this moment.” Reed is panicked – Beatty is great in this scene. You can already tell that he is not well. He needs to go home and recuperate his health. Reed says, “But … I need to go back to America. I have urgent obligations there.” Zinoviev stands up. “What obligations?” And suddenly, the whole air in the room changes. Everything gets very still and very icy. Normally, in a human world, when you say “I have urgent obligations” … the response you get is, “Of course. Go do what you need to do and then come back. Of course.” But this is a revolutionary world. Personal life has been abolished. There is nothing but the Party. (Again, Beatty does this without bashing you over the head with it. It just IS. This is what a revolution is like. Reed didn’t really get that. He was an intellectual, an observer, a writer … but once he got on the inside … he found that there was no way back out.) So when Zinoviev asks him, quietly (and it’s in this intractable way … you just know that whatever Reed says will not satisfy this man), “What obligations?” Reed is struck dumb for a second. He just stands there. And finally he says, simply, such a human moment, “I have a family. I need to see my wife.” But it’s a new world now. And Reed helped to bring that world about. And there will be no going back. You are now married to politics, to revolution. It’s a fantastic scene.

— What I saw in that moment – as opposed to the moment when he berated poor Eddie for taking care of his family instead of going to meet up with a political party member – was the realization, in John Reed, that his personal life would always be important to him. Zinoviev, the others, they inhabit an abstract world of power and struggle. No room for the human heart. It is all revolutionary thought and action. Reed had been living that way for a while back in America – the struggle took over his heart – nothing mattered but winning – PEOPLE became OBJECTS … But there, when confronted himself with the reality of that attitude, he is struck dumb. How can this man not understand that he had to go see his wife? He had been away from her for months. And while he was committed to the Russian revolution and to socialism … he was an American. This is the moment for John Reed. The moment of no return. You see in him that … all along … all along in this fight … he was identifying with the Russian people, swept away in the excitement of what it would mean for the workers of the world, etc. etc. … but in that moment, all he wants to do is go home to America. Eugene O’Neill was right. Louise and Jack had “middle-class aspirations” (home, family, togetherness, dinners together, making love, putting up a Christmas tree, walking their dog) for a couple of revolutionaries. And Zinoviev here, in that cold icy room with the patterned wallpaper and treacherously high ceilings, is telling him, in no uncertain terms, that those days are done for Jack Reed. No more. You will stay here. With us. We will not LET you leave. (This, naturally, is when Reed tries to escape into Finland – and of course is imprisoned for months on end). But also, what is great about the scene between Zinoviev and Reed is that you can feel Stalin in that room. You can feel the environment being created that would allow Stalin to take power. It’s early in the revolution – it’s early on – but the stage is already set for Stalin. That’s why that scene is so terrifying. Zinoviev, of course, was executed by Stalin in 1936. This is where the revolution was going. The coldness of that scene, the lack of pity for John Reed, the knowing lack of compassion for someone’s personal obligations … all of that was just setting the stage for Stalin to take over. Terrifying. Great scene. Well done, Warren.

— And that scene by the train … where she is there … waiting for John Reed to get off … Her face. Her face as she walks down that train platform. She has a kerchief around her head. Allison mentioned to me later, “Another actress might have totally over-acted that scene … walking up and down that platform … You can just see how in another actress’ hands it could have been so melodramatic and over the top …” But no. Keaton doesn’t go down that path. She is doing exactly what you would do. She is doing what I saw people do on September 11. Holding up signs of their loved ones and racing from hospital to hospital, looking for their lost soul. There was a focus in those people’s eyes, a fire, and also – a dreadful dreadful KNOWING that they would never find their beloved. And yet … and yet … you can’t give up! You can’t give up! Keep going. Keep going. Your heart ached when you saw those people. And watching Keaton move down that crowded trian platform, looking at everyone’s face, looking for her beloved, scanning the train windows, peering off down the platform … There are moments when a terror comes into those eyes, like a horror, she is already feeling the loss, and it is horrible … but then the terror leaves because … in the moment, there is too much to do. She must keep going, keep looking. She will overturn every blanket, she will peer into every face, because the next one might be him, the next one might be him … I was watching her and I could feel my throat clog up. Just from the look in her eyes.

— It was a truly memorable experience. Watching that movie on a Saturday afternoon, in a packed movie theatre, with my dear friend Allison. I’ll never forget it.

— We emerged, emotionally exhausted, emotionally exhilarated, into the piercing blue fall dusk.

— A perfect day. One for the books.

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11 Responses to Saturday snapshots

  1. Jon says:

    That does sound like such a perfect day.

    Love that kind of fall weather in NY. And Sat. in the Village, with all the schmendricks lining up for those half-assed cupcakes at Magnolia. You should definitely think about opening that Wheat Thin bakery; I think you’d have plenty of takers — esp. from those just having had Magnolia for the first (and last — I hope) time. Blech.

    But: REDS! Your nearly moment-by-moment snapshot summary of the piece is great. And while you were watching Nicholson doing what is arguably is best acting (I also think he’s kind of nearly perfect in “Ironweed” and “Five Easy Pieces”), I was watching him essentially spit out splinters every 5 seconds in “The Departed.” Oh boy…can’t even begin to go there. Can’t even tell either if I liked it or didn’t like it. But still couldn’t kind of take my eyes off the screen, esp. with Nicholson in full debauch (and bad ties and robes and blood all over himself…)

    But REDS! And poor/great/tortured Jerzy Kosinksi, a suicide ten years after he made REDS, self-asphyxiated in his bathtub on 65th Street, hours after he’d seen the Peter Greenaway film “Drowning By Numbers” (whoa nelly: read James Park Sloan’s very strong biography of J.K. if you want multitudes of conjectures about connections between his bathtub suicide/the Greenaway film/J.K.’s experience as a hidden Holocaust child.)

    And given that you’re a Helter Skelter freak, I’m sure you know that Kosinski was slated to be at the party when it was so…RUDELY…interrupted by the Manson mishpocha. Saved by lost luggage problems at JFK, where he had stopped en route to LAX on the way home from France. Crazy fate! Crazy luggage! Crazy Crazy!

    But, yes, REDS: all the life-imitating-art-imitating life quality to the Keaton/Beatty scenes…and with Kosinski, a literal and figurative exile of Soviet Poland/Russia’s nasty/sentimental grip, playing Zinoviev….it just makes that movie so tremendous (along with everything else you mentioned.)

    Wish I could see it on the big screen. And I totally identify with wanting to be at a moive that you love with someone who knows nothing about it, watching them occasionally throughout, and loving them while they fall in love with it (they better, dammit!) for the first time. Hope Allison managed to get the hippo out of her head, Red, filling it instead with REDS.


  2. jean says:

    Sheil – I read Prep in about eight hours. I refused to put it down. I insisted on walking around the shallow end of the pool while reading. pat was angered by this book actually, because i didn’t talk to him for an entire day of our vacation. great book…

  3. red says:

    Jean – you read it?? I can’t wait! I’m gonna take it to LA with me – I’ll probably knock it off on the plane ride.

  4. red says:

    Jon – so much to say. I cannot freakin’ WAIT to see Jack Nicholson in that film. i mean, I can’t wait for the whole thing – maybe I’ll go tonight. And yes – his work in the 70s is pretty near perfect. I love him in Reds because there are no “tricks” to it. Jack has a lot of tricks (which work very very well for him) – but in this movie, he’s raw. A raw nerve. A MAN. Beautiful.

    I have not read that biography of Kosinski – his life is so interesting, so tragic. He just decided he couldn’t go on anymore?? After seeing that film? Wow.

    He’s amazing as Zinoviev – perfect casting. He even looks like Zinoviev with that crazy hair. I loved his acting. He and Beatty have some great scenes.

    Allison and I also have a deep deep love for Something’s Gotta Give with Nicholson and Keaton – which we saw in the theatre together – and it has since become one of my favorite movies ever. I watch it all the time. But we noticed how there were a couple of scenes of Nicholson and Keaton lying in the dunes in Provincetown which were completely echoed by the scenes 30 years later in Something’s Gotta Give – with Nicholson and Keaton lying in the dunes on East Hampton … amazing. I just know that the director of something’s gotta give was referencing that old movie – referencing their history togehter as actors, and as people – just for those of us out here who remember, who would get it.


  5. red says:

    Oh and Jean – meant to tell you – Siobhan played a show last week, and we all were there – me, Liam, Lydia, Allison – and she played the song she wrote about you!! It was so great!

  6. Jon says:

    Until you pointed it out, I didn’t make the connection between Nicholson/Keaton in “Reds” and their work in “Something’s Got to Give” — probably because throughout my viewing of the latter (which, to be frank — no offense, Sheila–I really didn’t like), I kept whispering (not too softly) to the person I’d gone with to the movie: “Something BETTER give, or else…” Yup, it’s true, I didn’t find that flick charming in hardly any way. Perhaps a 2nd viewing is in order, but that would take some heavy convincing (and a lot of red wine and Vicodin…)

    Anyway, yes, on the dunes in Reds, on the dunes in S.G.T.G: nice polar caps to a long filmic history. I’ll freeze those shots in sepia-toned-(hammock)-amber for now, and leave it at that.

    But, yes, Jack and his tricks — of which he has many and often uses to great effect. Can’t wait to hear what you think about “The Departed.” Whatever anyone might say, he’s hardly boring in the part.

    And, yes, I agree that Kosinski was ideal casting for Zinoviev. And he had a blast making the movie — an experience he fictionlized to hallucinatory effect (including his subsequent stint as a presenter at the Oscars) in his last novel, “The Hermit of 69th Street.”

    As for the Greenaway film’s effect on J.K.’s suicide, there’s a lot folk have made through the years of J.K.’s well-known water/drowning phobias and how he ended his own life. But, of course, it’s never as simple as that; he was, like all of us (or, at least most of us), terribly, terribly complex. And he suffered greatly (yeah, I know, who doesn’t, but he really did…) I actually did my college senior thesis on him, which cluminated in a one-person show (this was just months after the suicide) where, among other things, I “drowned” myself on stage. Well, in a big bucket of water. Sounds cornier that it played (I was simulating being ass-raped by a gang of Polish thugs while this drowning was happening…ahem), and one of the jokes I had with Kate at the time (who basically stage managed the peformance for me) was to walk out on stage one night, expecting all the props and accoutrements to be where they needed to be, and when it came time for the drowning/rape sequence, I’d be thrashing on the floor, fighting off an invisible band of Slavic butt fuckers who were dragging me in the sepia-toned (hammock) shadows toward what I assumed would be the awful metal bucket of rape water — only to find there instead (courtesy of a squiggly-smiling, Snoopy-like Kate) a small glass of water. The possibility of her doing this would make us howl for years afterward, thinking that if it had ever happened, I’d have no choice but to “go on with the show” and continue enacting the mimed rape/drown with that measly little glass of water, trying to squeeze my head into it as I had done with the bucket. Probably one of those things that was funnier to us than it is to anyone hearing about it, but I can’t help cracking up thinking of Kate mimimicking me as J.K. (complete with his Polish accent) trying repeatedly — but unsuccessfully — to get my head into the glass of water, all the while thrashing and screaming and crying out about a “gang of boys” who were after me. Oh my god: I wish you could hear Kate say “A gang of boys!” I’m peeing tears it’s so fucking funny!

    Anyway, Jerzy Kosinski. Now he’s someone who really and truly lived his life as though it were art. And possibly at the ultimate cost. R.I.P.

  7. Scotter says:

    Can someone answer me this about Reds?
    When John Reed is on the Russian train and it gets attacked in the countryside–he takes cover outside the train with the others, and when the horses and carts leave the train (on the offense?) he suddenly takes off running towards the attackers.

    Was he running away from the reds? Or fighting back? Or what? Because the next sequence has him exiting the train for the poster-hug with Keaton.

    Or…was this what I call a ghost from a cut scene–something that only makes sense when followed by a scene that didn’t make it out of the editing room.

    Always wondering about that. Never got a good answer.

  8. red says:

    The way I interpreted that moment (and Allison and I discussed this, too) is that Reed was trying to catch up with the reds who were escaping by cart and horse. He was running towards the attackers – but I thought he was running to catch up with the one cart with the cannon, driven by reds – so that he would have a shot of actually escaping.

    The next question is: what happened next?? How did they get back on that rag-tag train?

    Beatty cuts that scene off – without letting us know whether or not Reed caught up with the wagon – obviously to heighten the suspense of the train platform scene. We don’t know what happened to him until Keaton sees him.

    But that’s how I saw it – that he was running, arm outstretched, to try to leap onto the escaping buggy with the cannon. So he would not just be a man hiding in a ditch, with no way of escape.

    It’s a very confusing sequence. Even Roger Ebert mentions it in his original review – “I have no idea why he was running, but I know that HE knew” – or something like that. Ha!!

  9. Jessica says:

    So good to run into you and yellow the other day on the way to Reds/vegan pizza. I must apologize for sliming something into your coif, that was, absolutely, an accident. But great to see you (you really bust out the winter-wear early don’t you? If I remember correctly, you seemed slightly overdressed, donning head to toe black wool? Aint no shame in the outerwear though…i’ve been waiting several months to return to my scarf and blazer uniform)
    Anyways, must go (i work at tv guide- ever heard of it?- and I am VERY IMPORTANT here.) but i love you! i love you! and im glad you got the chance to meet the bengal tiger (read: my boyfriend omar sharif) and to have rekindled our old flame, if only for a moment.

  10. alli says:

    I’d never even heard of Reds before this. But now I suddenly feel the urge to find and watch it.

    I love that the crowd finally made the woman shut up. And your friend Allison seems like a character, love the hippo thing.

    Sounds like a fantastic day. :)

  11. red says:

    alli – you’ll be able to see Reds on DVD on October 17 … up until now, it’s only been on video – so Oct. 17 is the date of its entry into the 21st century!

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