The Movies

projectorThe theater was not what I expected.  It was a theater time forgot, with awful threadbare printed carpet and a box office with wooden ledges.  I bought my ticket ($12, thank you), and went up the stairs.  I turned the corner to go to the bathroom.  I almost ran smack into a cutout of a movie villain and nearly wet my pants right there.

Then the movie, yes.  “Her.”  Being in love is like having a voice in your ear.  From what I remember.  That voice.  All the time.  In your ear.  Ticklish.  It doesn’t matter if who you love is real, or, rather, you loving makes her real.

And touching matters, but not as much as the voice.  Nothing could matter as much as that.

I walked a lot of the way home, although I didn’t have to, it was both frugal and the movie was that good.  I wanted to be alone with it.  Sidewalk after sidewalk, block by block, windows of chandeliers and bookcases in bay windows of brownstones, narrow building after narrow building, stoop after stoop, with the park at my right hand.  I thought about people I have been in love with.

I love stories about loneliness because loneliness is so sweet and so sour, and I also love movies that say, “sex is the least of it,” without being coy.

The main character in “Her” goes out on date with real person, and it ends the awful way it can.  At important kissing moment, girl says, “Will you?  Are you serious?”  and boy says, “Whoa, there,” resulting in the usual sad stop of kissing all together.

For the first time, I did not have to pay the entry fee at the Museum of Modern Art (I got a membership), so I was at leisure to have lunch, and then to look at very little, or nothing, at my leisure.

The atrium had benches and carpet, and people of all ages were sitting, lying, propped on elbows, letting the film go, some of them watching, some not.  It is low tourist season here, and that made is seem cozier, too.  No one in the atrium was someone in town cramming art, photos with Matisse before running to photos with Times Square. It was too cold out, too rough.  We were inside, warm.  We were sitting, lying, propped up on elbows, eyes closed, on phones, what have you.  We watched and didn’t watch Chinese angels flying outside mile-tall office buildings, and a lady in 1940 riding a trolley and lighting a Chinese cigarette in a Chinese alley.

Around the corner, I saw a few more films.  One of a fountain and an intersection of cars.  One a reenactment of the guy, H.M., who is a famous test subject for memory problems.  An epileptic, he lost parts of his brain, and now is unable to form new memories.  In the film, two projections showed him, on one square, and images of things he knew about, or would never know about, on another.

I liked that, the memory stuff, even if the reenactment made it feel disingenuous, and more than that, I liked the sound of the film, real film, flipping and ticking along, the way films did in my elementary school gym, big reels, big screen, all of us on the bleachers, eyes peeled.  Flipping, ticking, like an eggbeater, like a card in a  bicycle wheel.  Maybe the card in a wheel somewhere far away, in a season not now, the fluttery pace of time second by second going faster than you thought it was.

Link to the film at MoMA


moma astronautsMagritte made me think about vocabulary.

Magritte works in trunks (the human kind), tubes, clouds, wood, ball bearings, music, chess pieces, rocks.  Blues and browns and blacks and greys.

I work in animals, stained glass, shoulders and brown hair, houses, and glasses (the kind you drink out of).  I work in fairy tales and Bible stories.  There’s sparkle and glow and never a pastel in sight.

What you say is maybe less interesting than what you use to say it.

Once I got a rejection letter that read, “I think I know what you are trying to say, but I have no idea why you’re trying to say it that way.”  That’s right up there with, “Why don’t you tell us a story?”  I hated that teacher, cried twice a week after his class, and proceeded to spend the next twenty years following his advice.

My imagination is too active to like surrealism.  I have to work to get into this world, to touch real things.  I don’t need to be pulled out of my body, except for comfort.  Surrealism is supposed to be jarring.

Magritte paints a neck as a leg, a neck as a concrete pipe, and rearranges limbs in a way that reminds me: this is not inevitable.  The integrity of the body is delicate, always delicate in a way we don’t want to admit.  The hands of the little boy are growing, and the shoulder will bend forward, down.

What does he mean about trees, though, trees being made out of music?  How does he get away with superimposing his music trees in front of regular old painted trees?  With a shoe filled with hair instead of a woman?

Just playing with his vocabulary, perhaps.

The vocabulary becomes the precious thing, too.  Emily Dickinson’s garden, her flowers and bees and grasses.  John Irving’s bears and condoms.

Hard to know, though, when you are trapped in your usual materials, when they are crutches, when you have to go looking for new ones.

I went to St. Patrick’s after seeing the Magritte show.  It is nearby.  St. Patrick’s is choked with scaffolding right now.  When I walked in, a man handed me a bulletin and I found a plastic chair behind the wooden pews that hadn’t yet been removed.

Once I sat, I saw that I had chosen the same row as St. John’s altar.  I was going to go by there anyway.

About twenty years ago, I was in Manhattan, and my shoes started to give me a blister.  Oxford kind of shoes, black ones.  I bought some espadrilles, because they were cheap.  When I got up to leave, I accidentally left my old shoes.  I always wished someone was sitting there praying for size 8 shoes.

Image from MoMA lobby on that same visit.  The Magritte show doesn’t allow photos.  Link below to images of show.