Friday, December 24, 2010

New York: Here and somewhere

Yesterday was my first full day back in New York. I'm not counting the previous day because I managed to sleep half of that (a one-shot cure to jet lag as it turned out). I was itching to do something - perhaps go to the cinema or even the opera - and so I did.

I began with Somewhere, which I had been excited to see since Lola's preview from the Venice Film Festival. It is one of those films that I have enjoyed thinking back on even more than I enjoyed watching it.  Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it in the cinema. In real time viewing I enjoyed the hazy Southern California light evoked beautifully by Coppola and cinematographer Harris Savides. I enjoyed how the shots were framed, as if by a curious, sympathetic, slightly-too-insistent observer. The first time around it was really about a mood, a slowly evolving feeling -- malaise stretching into unease, into perhaps a ray of hope. But then thinking back on it (which is my "second viewing"), behind the seemingly lazy amble of scenes and episodes there was more purpose than chance. And the eye / camera really stays in the mind as the main character in the film: not only what is observed, but how long, which how much attention, from what angle, in what light. In this the film reminds me a bit of Antonioni (many thanks to Tony Scott for making this connection). And I'm sure a real second viewing would be very rewarding.

Then I went off to the opera, which turned out to be a perfect pairing with the film: Pélleas et Mélisande by Debussy. It's also more about a feeling than very much happening (at least for much of the opera, by the end there's a murder, a birth, and a death -- after all it is opera). The orchestra takes us through a subtle, evolving shade of feelings, like a dark grotto lit up by reflections and refractions from the water. There are ambiguities, elisions, uncertainties, all of which the orchestra traverses steadily and mysteriously. The spoken and sung words never resolve anything; they only magnify and punctuate feelings. And when things happen - and they do - they too aren't climaxes or resolutions, only knots in the wood. And making the connection to film, Mélisande seems like a precursor to the impossible enigmatic heroines of French film: she never answers a question directly, doesn't hesitate to lie, causes men to fall in love, falls in love herself, all without really saying what she means. Yet she is irresistible in her shifting ambiguity.

Just to bring some certainty to my day, I ate a slice of pizza on the way home - a glorious, non-gourmet, stomach-filling New York slice. I've "known" the man behind the register for years -- we recognize each other, and he has seen me in every possible situation: with friends, parents, friends, exes, hungry, angry, funny, sad, silly, drunk, sober.... But after these two subtle works of art in one day, I felt wonderfully in balance, and of course so happy to be back in New York.

Wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Years. Wherever you are, I hope you are with family, friends, loved ones, and surrounded by joy and beauty.




If Jane said...

since you have been back..a lot has happened in your new york day...;))

Style, She Wrote said...

Oh NY pizza! There's nothing better! Happy Holidays! xo style, she wrote

joshi said...

that last bit about the pizza - acceptance blues, you nailed it.

shopgirl said...

Sounds like a Wonderful Christmas Eve! I enjoy reading your stories. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas in New York!

A big Christmas hug!


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