Saturday, June 26, 2010
Sorry for my prolonged absence. All I can say is that I was attacked by a massive case of blog-aversion.
A few days ago I took a very slick train ride on the groovy new Acela train from New York's ugliest station (Penn, natch) to Waterford Connecticut, home of the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center. Here, over the next week, we're workshopping the musical that we're developing based on my movie "Two Family House". Retitled "Buddy's Tavern" (should have called the movie that as well and for a second I almost did--"Two Family House" is a pun title and clever though it is, it requires a viewing of the film to understand why it's called that...), the musical is frankly a hell of a piece of work if I do say so myself. The composer Kim Oler and lyricist Alison Hubbard have written a big fat score that is alternately funny and sad, moving and always insightful. We started on this process way back in 2002 and its taken us all this time to get to something that I think we all agree is close as can be to a finished theatrical musical. A grueling process but terribly rewarding when it's working well.
Anyway, the O'Neill is located on a lovely piece of land on the Long Island Sound, an old farm that the center's founder, George White, apparently saw from a boat one day and--lo!--immediately conceived of as a retreat for theater people to go to to work on their projects in peace and harmony. (This is legend of course, but I buy it. How else do places like this come into existence except by mad inspiration and fearless, heedless action?) I'm currently typing this in my room--a high-ceilinged upstairs bedroom in a delightful old 19th century manor house (inexplicably called the "White" house...inexplicable because it's painted yellow). I seriously wondered, on the way up, how I would last a full ten days at this place. Now, on day five I can't quite believe I've only five more days left...
Last night, a number of people in the cast of our show who had never seen "Two Family House" decided to watch it. They asked me to come but I declined. It's a strange experience watching your own movie with an audience--oftentimes an unsettling one as you tend, after time, to see it defensively. Then I decided--what the hell. I haven't watched TFH straight through in a long time (I admit to watching sections of it when it pops up on HBO). And I was gratified to see that everyone seemed to be very moved by it, and laughed in the right places as well.
But I had a strange reaction--one that I didn't expect. I literally became the person I was ten years ago when the movie was made. I could feel my thirty-five year old self, remember what kind of person I was then, felt the home that I then lived in with my then girlfriend (now wife), remembered the sights, the smells, the feelings of my life in 1999.
It made me think of the phrase "pieces of time"--Jimmy Stewart's description of what movies really are. For movies have a way of freezing time...of locking events into place forever. Not just the events you see on screen--but the meta-movie, the movie about the making of the movie. Really it was the closest thing to a time machine that I can imagine and the result was to make me incredibly sad in that beautiful way that sadness sometimes brings on...a feeling of the profound loveliness of life and time and the sense of how fleeting it is, how quickly today becomes the past. Orson Welles was once asked by Peter Bogdanovich to join him in watching "Magnificent Ambersons" on television one day. Welles watched a few minutes of it and then left the room. When PB asked him why he left--assuming that he simply didn't like seeing it on the little box instead of on a big screen--Welles roared: "no that's not it! It's that it already happened. It's so long ago and now all of that is gone!"
Though I always loved that story, I never fully felt it...until last night...
Posted by Raymond De Felitta at 4:27 AM