Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Good Movie for a Sunday

Yesterday I painted my home office. I sometimes feel as if I've been transfused with Latex paint, and that if I cut myself I'd bleed a variety of hues, I've been painting a great deal.

I think it was the color that made think of a 2001 movie that I particularly liked, although it seems many people haven't seen it. It's a slow movie, very well-written, a thinking movie. The director has a very interesting, and rather subtle eye for color. It is classified as an Indie, which generally just means it's not an action film, since it seems big studios either make action films, or movies that rely less on script, and more on bankablity. I knew I had a copy of it, so I decided to sit down and watch it. Eventually my husband, also familiar with the film, joined me and we both marveled over the lovely, understated performances by some very talented actors.

The movie is Thirteen Conversations About One Thing and if you like thoughtful movies, you'll probably like it. There is never a crescendo in it. The action never comes to a head, and it is a non-linear tale (which can drive some people a bit berserk). Clea Duvall and Alan Arkin are particularly good in it. Parts are sad, but overall the movie is hopeful. The one thing they are all supposed to be discussing is the nature of happiness, at least that's what critical reviews suggest.

I can see that, but mostly it is a quiet study in the nature of faith, that happiness is as much a choice in life as it is anything else, and that maybe, just maybe, we are miracles for other people, when we choose to be.

My husband, joining me in progress, couldn't quite remember the exact plot. Plot spoiler to follow:
(I feel silly guarding against a spoiler on an eight year old film, but some folks abhor spoilers, I don't think this one is key, but better safe, an all that):

At a key point Clea Dvuall's character is saved by the simple act of a stranger smiling at her. My husband turned to me and asked, "Who was it?" since we never see the moment. The film seems to suggest that it was Bowman, known as "Smiley" Bowman in the film. The ending suggests that it might be the least likely character throughout the film. I like to think that's exactly what the ending means. There's also something beautiful in the fact that Beatrice's life is saved because of someone else's choice, and the question of who it was isn't answered because, pretty clearly, the film is trying to suggest it might very well have been you.

I'm a smiling sort of person. Always have been. Years, and years ago, when I was twenty or so I was standing in line at a drugstore, thinking of something pleasant, awaiting my turn at the cash register and I was smiling. A woman in front of me looked at me and said, "You're very pretty." and I thanked her, and smiled more. Then she said acidicly, "You must be very lucky, or very stupid."

It took me a moment to realize she was referring to the fact that I was smiling. I remember that moment because even at twenty, I was absolutely stunned that anyone would go so far out of their way to wipe an entirely harmless smile off of anyone's face. Luckily I am what my mother always referred to as "Bloody-minded", meaning cussed, stubborn, mulish and I replied, "Neither actually." and grinned almost maniacally at her. She turned away quickly, probably thinking I was crazy. I've often wondered, how miserable must her own life have been that the sight of someone smiling set her off so.

I never forgot it. Here's the reason: That was the only time in my life someone criticized me for smiling. When you smile at someone, generally speaking, they will simply smile right back.

Maybe that's why I liked the movie so much. Not everyone in it is likable. Not everyone gets a happy-ending, and in some cases we don't even know what their ending might be. That movie was like the antidote to that long ago moment, and I've always loved it.


Kathryn said...

I don't think i've ever been criticized for smiling, but it isn't easy to do it often. I am in Orange County CA for a couple of days a week & few people make eye contact. I TRY to share a smile, but a lot of folks don't want it.

Still, that's not as bad as when i was in Eastern KY about 6 weeks ago. Folks there would make eye contact but their frowns & grimaces got deeper when i smiled at them. I found it very depressing.

How quick thinking of your 20 YO self to give such a quick response. I'm not good at quick responses & remarks like that tend to deflate me. But how smart of you, also, to realize how empty her life must have been. You are a sweetie. :)

Land of shimp said...

Thanks Kathryn :-) It was a very rare moment of having a quick response for me, actually. I'm normally the person who thinks up the perfect response five days later, when it helps not at all.

That would be very disheartening to have someone frown in response to a smile. I wonder what that could possibly be about? I think big cities often do have the "avoid eye contact" rule. It's a shame, really. I know it's done to make people feel safer, but I think the end result isolates us all. Makes us feel farther apart than we really are.

Keep smiling! Even if someone frowns in response, it's about them, not about you. I hope you have many reasons to smile throughout your life :-)

Kathryn said...

Thanks for your kind post on my blog.

I like quick reactions whenever i have them, which is rare. More often, like you, i think of the "proper" response hours or days later.

The frowns in response to smiles i think reflect the area. Eastern KY was financially depressed before the current economic downturn. I imagine few find anything to smile about.

And, i agree that lack of eye contact isolates us even more. It might make people feel safer, but it is not true. People who don't make eye contact are more likely to be mugged. But not by me. :)

I'm so glad i found your blog. How is it going with the HOA?

Land of shimp said...

Ah! That's makes perfect sense, I hadn't thought of that until you mentioned it, but that is an area that has been hit quite hard. It does make sense, but it's still rather sad. Hopefully we'll all have many reasons to smile more frequently in the near future.

Do you know I haven't hear anything at all from my HOA. I actually encountered the HOA president and he's a curt-nodder :-) Nothing unpleasant, just the sort of man who says, "Hello." with a brief nod. He does look a bit grim, I have to admit, but it's always hard to tell what's going on in someone's life. Maybe he's become so devoted to rules and regulations as a way of feeling like there's still order in a sometimes chaotic universe. For all I know he's a perfectly nice man and I guess time will tell.

Thanks for asking. All is quiet on the Western Front here!

Maybe it's a cultural thing here in Colorado but strangers tend to strike up conversations together. I can't even tell you how many conversations I've ended up in at the Home Depot. It's actually quite nice. I suppose it doesn't really count as stranger interaction, after all just being in a place sometimes suggests we have something in common.

When you're looking at paint, or home supplies, it's clear that you've likely both got essentially the same day planned!

I hope you feel better soon, by the way.

PhilipH said...

You're either a "smiley" or a "dead pan" type of person. Sometimes it may depend on how you feel at any particular time.

Our prime minister, Gordon Brown, is definitely a non-smiler. It just doesn't seem to come naturally to him. In complete contrast, Tony Blair, our former P.M. was a constant smiley guy.

This did not always augur well for him. He was often accused of being a false-smiler.

Now Gordon Brown has been having "lessons" in how to "smile" when on television. Seems his seriousness works against him.

So, Blair was criticized for being a smiley, Brown for being a non-smiley. Tricky for each of them, eh?

Interesting post Bug. Keep smiling!

Land of shimp said...

Yes, Gordon Brown is a man with a very serious countenance! I like him, but I wouldn't want to cross him.

Philip, we envied the UK Tony Blair, we really did. Perhaps it was a case of the grass being greener, and all that, but at a time when our own president was stumbling through speeches, Blair's eloquence was much admired.

Don't forget, there are the "frowns in concentration" sorts, too! My husband is one of those. It doesn't actually indicate an ill-tempered individual in his case, it's just his face!