MAKING CITY ISLAND: WRITING IN THE SHADOW OF 9/11 (pt. 2)
Do you remember the sense, on the morning of the 12th of September, 2001, of the air being let out of the tires? Of a collective, wheezing deflation of spirit? The reactions were, in retrospect, cosmically large yet weirdly particular. Chief among them was: why bother doing anything? It was as if the stunning, massive and catastrophic attack--and its success and our failure to see how easily accomplished and inevitable it was--rendered all other human endeavor kind of...pointless.
In New York the effect was, of course, magnified. Not only was all typical endeavor pointless, but all roads pointed to only one endeavor worth pursuing: clean up the rubble at Ground Zero.
Why was this so important to accomplish so quickly? In retrospect I wonder if it was the same instinct that led to Miramax's unfortunate decision to immediately recall all prints of their films and erase the World Trade Center from their logo: a collective shame that was felt about the attack and our own naivete regarding how many in the world around us regarded America. If evidence of the catastrophe could be erased, we seemed to think, our shame might be allayed. Somewhat like a child burying a toy that he broke, rather than asking for it to be fixed.
On that strange morning after, I pretty much gave up the idea of finishing my script. Several people I knew were going downtown to help the "clean up" effort. I declined joining them I think because I felt that, in my case, its symbolism outweighed its utility--given a broom and dustpan, I will more often then not spill more shit then I sweep up.
And all the other writers who I knew (both of them) had the same sense that I did: why finish something that doesn't matter? Movies/plays/books...whatever. That was the sound that the collective sigh seemed to be making at that time: whatever.
Almost a decade later, this seems far more rooted in American's arrogance at our invulnerability then in any true reaction to a devastation. For centuries and longer, cities and civilizations have been routinely demolished and somehow art never ceases. I have a strong sense that much of the rest of the world got used to these wounds in the collective unconscious eons ago. America is young still. So on the morning of September 12th, we were asking ourselves: "Is it truly necessary to make 'Legally Blonde 2?'"
And then a couple of weeks later I said the hell with it. I have little if anything to offer in the way of physical labor and a very limited patience with political rhetoric. What I did have, however, was a good goddam script that was languishing, half-completed, on my desk. The Rizzo's were as stranded as all other New Yorkers--and they didn't even know about the towers! I'd given them life and then put them on suspension. Worse, the point that I felt I was gearing up to make with this tale of family, love and secrecy--PASSIVITY AND INACTION LEAD TO FAILURE TO GROW--was being subverted by my own passsivity and inaction.
So I got back to work. And sometime in the early weeks of October, 2001, I wrote the last scene of the movie. A family lunch--a reunion of sorts, coming after the families problems have been solved and their love and trust rekindled--on the lawn of the Rizzo home, overlooking the skyline of Manhattan, as viewed from City Island. I didn't need to mention whether the towers were there or not--though their recent disappearance somehow make me think I needed to address this fact. No. Instead redemption and acceptance occur in view of a skyline that can never truly be defaced--a monument to strength, imagination and acceptance. That's how I ended the script, in October '01. It's also the exact way the film ends, as shot in August, '08.
In between finishing the script and shooting the film, however, there were a few stops along the way...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 10:46 AM