Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shiny happy movies

Got a helpful cinematic one-two punch the last two nights. Saw "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" on DVD and loved it; especially loved Jean Arthur. Interesting to see a collection of familiar faces from "It's a Wonderful Life" in very different roles (most surprising: the sad, drunk shopkeeper from "Life" as the powerful Senate majority leader), and nice to find a compelling plot beneath the occasional bursts of Capra speechifying. (One wonders if the filibuster scene has a bit of directorial self-mockery in it; what better way for Capra to deliver nonstop lefty preaching than to position his hero on the Senate floor and let him talk for 24 hours straight?) Other favorite bits: Harry Carey's irrepressible, slightly mysterious smile as the president of the Senate (Hitler hairdo notwithstanding), and Arthur's heartbreakingly sweet way of finally expressing her affection for Jimmy Stewart. Looks like the only other film that teams Capra, Stewart, and Arthur is "You Can't Take It With You," so I'll probably be picking that up sooner or later.

Equally sweet in its own way (and almost Capraesque in certain ways) was "Lars and the Real Girl." Saw it with the film meetup that convenes once a month officially and several Mondays per month less officially. Nice group of people, and slightly bizarre to spend a couple hours in a restaurant noisily discussing and debating movies. Almost felt a little dizzy afterwards. One fellow, Gabe, pointed out that when he's around his other friends and the subject of movies comes up, they quickly try to change the subject, because once he gets started, apparently, it's hard to stop him. As someone who once secured a friendship by talking about "Y tu mamá también" for something like three hours in a coffeeshop, I know the feeling.

Group conversations like last night's are interesting to me, because you can get together with other cinephiles every month, or even more often, and never really get to know them in ways beyond their movie preferences. It's kind of the ultimate test of the theory that you do (and talk about) certain things with certain friends and other things with other friends, and in the end you get what you need, intellectually and emotionally, from your combined pool of friends. I'm quite familiar with the conventional wisdom that you shouldn't expect any one friend, or even partner, to give you everything you need. But I'm also wary of the safety zone people can establish with each other when all they talk about is pop culture. There's nothing wrong, per se, with making or even continuing a friendship on that basis, but sometimes it can be so gratifying to get beyond that (or frustrating not to know how). In general, I'm interested in the idea that certain friendships are only "meant" to acquire a certain amount of depth, versus the idea of trying to slowly but surely get closer and closer to all your friends. Sometimes that process of getting closer feels effortless; other friendships enter that comfort zone, and a deeper level of disclosure doesn't seem necessary or even desirable.

But I was supposed to be talking about a grown man's love affair with a life-size doll.

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