March 11, 2013

well, the moon is swimming naked and the summer night is fragrant

photo (7)

I sat in my dark living room, watching Take This Waltz flicker on the screen for the second time in as many days, and I kept alternately thinking of people that I wanted to recommend the film to, and simultaneously chastising myself for wishing such piercing torture on anyone. I know that doesn’t sound like an endorsement. Take This Waltz is easily one of the best, and hardest, movies I’ve seen in years.

I’m fascinated by the concept of liminality, liminal spaces, and liminal relationships in our lives. I love movies (like Lost in Translation, or Before Sunrise) that plumb the complicated depths of those spaces in our lives which are neither one thing nor the other. I feel like maybe the final frontier of maturity is getting more-okay with just sitting with the unknown, and being content in the shifting. At least maybe it just is for me.

Take This Waltz is from whipsmart director Sarah Polley, who is about the same age as I am, with wisdom and insight that wows me. One of the most telling lines in the movie is at the beginning when Michelle Williams’ character tells a handsome stranger on a plane, “I’m afraid of connections,” referring to her time in airports, “…wondering if I am going to make it. I don’t like being in-between things. I’m afraid of being afraid.” “That sounds like the most dangerous thing in the world,” the handsome stranger replies, and then –of course– the rest of the movie is spent smashing apart that fear.

Another line that floored me comes towards the end, and stuck with me like a burr under the skin. It’s spoken by Sarah Silverman’s recovering-alcoholic character: “Life has a gap in it. It just does. You don’t go crazy trying to fill it like some kind of lunatic.” Huh.

So….all that relevant rambling to lead us to this song that the movie teases us with, one that perfectly soundtracks a pivotal scene at a sexy, boozy, humid summer house party, all warmly lit by Chinese lanterns. There’s no official version released, so this is a pieced-together (but eminently listenable) mp3 made by some enterprising blogger, no doubt. SO. TERRIFIC.

Closing Time (Leonard Cohen) – Feist

(the Leonard Cohen original from 1992)

Director Sarah Polley tells the story in an interview of how she tried and tried to get Feist to record this song for the soundtrack, but was not having any luck by the time filming commenced in Toronto. “We were shooting on a street in Little Portugal at two in the morning, this tiny little street, and these two people ride by on a bike, and I hear ‘Sarah!’ And I turn around and it’s Leslie Feist and Howie Beck, and they were on their way to play glow-in-the-dark Frisbee at Trinity Bellwoods park. And I was like, ‘Hi! Do you want to cover Closing Time, like, in the next two days?’ And she was like, ‘Sure!’”

And there we have it.

The final thought on all this stuff that stuck with me after viewing the movie was uncovered in the bonus commentary with Polley. “We live in a culture where we feel like if there’s something missing that means there’s something wrong.” She goes on to reflect, “Happily ever after contains all kinds of messes, but nothing in life fully prepares us for that.” The soundtrack throughout this movie is marvelous, and the film is messy, and so worth a careful viewing. Or two.

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  • What’s up Heather…I don’t know if you remember me…I defended your Josh Ritter honor a few years back when you got into it with another guy over how important of a songwriter he was to our time and generation…I just remember getting into it over the artistic and cultural value of American Idiot vs. any Josh Ritter album. I gave up when the guy revealed he was from LA and a Laker and Dodger fan. I said I only argue with people who stay for the whole game…hope you get that. Anyhow I just watched that flick the other night as well (along with “The Perks of Being A Wallflower”, another stellar film with an amazing soundtrack if you haven’t seen it)…my thoughts were a little mixed. Overall yes, I enjoyed it, but I wanted the film to end when she dreamed about the lighthouse. I think it would’ve been just perfect right there. Visually the film was stunning…I don’t know how Sarah Polley gets colors so well…if you haven’t seen it, check out “Away From Her” from a few years back. And even though I understood the meaning and purpose of the pool shower scene, it can make some a bit uneasy (One where I said “Glad I didn’t watch this one with my parents”) even though it sums up the theme of everything new gets old at some point. I also couldn’t help but think Sarah Silverman had a hand in her falling off the wagon scene, it just screamed for her, especially the part with the baby chicks. I’m partly glad I watched the film by myself…my wife was out and I’m not sure she would have caught all the little things I did. She’s a little less cerebral than I am about films and would have been bothered by the “depressing Michelle Williams sad sack”…she actually couldn’t make it all the way through “Blue Valentine”, which of course I loved. Anyhow, great write up, definitely share more of your film thoughts more often…take care and keep up the awesome work.

    Francis — March 11, 2013 @ 8:37 pm

  • Oh, I am so glad you posted about this. I watched this on my own a couple of weeks ago and your writing about it makes me want to have a closer watch of it. But that Sarah Silverman line is so good and so true. There *is* a gap in life. I think sometimes it can be a driving force, or sometimes I feel like it can consume me. But I think life is about figuring out how to live with that gap. It’s seems very existentialist. We can’t really know each other, and the gap reminds me of the concept of angst.

    Anyway, thanks again. And for the bits of that cover!

    Claire Helene — March 12, 2013 @ 8:17 am

  • I too watched this movie twice in the same number of days. Incredible and so beautifully tragic. I’m so happy you blogged about it. I *wish* there was an official soundtrack. There’s this, at least, which melts my heart every time:

    Sharon — March 15, 2013 @ 4:57 pm

  • Thank you for posting this. I rewatched the film while working on some writing recently and was surprised to see how resonant it was now that I approach my own happily ever after. Having struggled with compulsive behavioral disorders for years the idea of the gap and learning how to live with the reality of it while also remaining true to one’s self may actually be the key to everything. What an amazing movie and how grateful I am for art that can find the words to speak for me when my own voice fails.

    Clara Caulfield — August 19, 2017 @ 6:31 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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