The first John Cassavetes film I saw was A Woman Under the Influence. I don’t remember much about when exactly I watched the movie or with whom, but I do, in detail, remember how I was affected by it, how I knew that I had just seen something so fragile and so brilliant. I didn’t think a film could be so good, didn’t think it could speak in that way. I am still stunned when I recall that movie and am left a bit speechless here trying to put into words what exactly it is I love about this movie, what particular qualities it has that make it so amazing.
There was a Woody Allen binge a year or so ago and in some of those movies I was able to approach a similar state of awe and jealousy.
Last night, I felt it again. I watched the first two parts of Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales series, The Bakery Girl of Monceau and Suzanne’s Career. I had seen A Summer’s Tale a couple of years ago and also felt this feeling. I had told myself at that point that I was going to try to watch many more Rohmer movies, but until last night, for whatever reasons, I had not done so.
A Summer’s Tale hit me in a million places, my overly sentimental heart, my brain’s love of conversation, my penis (for the lead actor), and everywhere in between. It was a really talky movie, but not annoyingly so. There is something so delicate about these movies, balancing these things that had they just a pinch more of any of the ingredients would be too much, either too self-consciously intellectual or too sentimental.
Both of the films that I watched last night were similar in tone and similar in theme, a love triangle slowly playing itself out throughout the course of the film, during which time you observe desire, the lack of it from the desired party, cruelty from all parties, and the really staggering vulnerability that people expose themselves to when they expose their heart’s desires. Human beings are so endlessly fascinating in their desire for affection, that really this is so much of what our life is devoted to, and Rohmer gets it so unbelievably right. Perhaps it is not unbelievable that he gets it so right, but so unbelievable that not everybody else does. To watch television or most movies is really difficult for me lately because it doesn’t even come close, has a set of concerns and a worldview that I don’t want to hear. To even hear the sound of the television makes the poetry that life seems to have in some moments, some films, some books, some music, seem like reports from another planet, a dream. All I want to do is watch Eric Rohmer movies and sigh as characters get slighted, feeling it, feeling past slights, and smile when affection is returned, feeling imagined future instances of that.