[Editor's Note: Leslye Headland, whose debut film 'Bachelorette' opens on September 7th is today's very special guest blogger. I'm loving this memoir -Nathaniel R]
When preparing for this guest blog, I thought about what I would’ve written about if I were guest blogging seven years ago as my blogger alter ego, Arden. Most likely I would’ve wanted to get super nerdy and introspective so here we go:
If you’re like me, movies are your life. They cheer you up. They bring you down. They connect you to people. They alienate you from others. You develop passionate arguments about the state of film today. You rehearse those arguments in your head then unleash them upon unsuspecting acquaintances during an otherwise friendly gathering. They can get you a job. (I truly believe my first assistant gig was secured by my encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars). They can get you laid. (My number one turn-on in bed? Oscar trivia.)
As Truffaut said, we are sick people. But we weren’t always this way. What happened? Well, if you go back in your life, I bet you can find the most formative years were shaped by a handful of films. I decided to take a look at the symbiotic nature of what I watched and when I watched it.
Love and Death (1975, dir. Woody Allen)
This is the first film I ever remember watching. I slept on the top bunk in the bedroom I shared with my sister. From there, I could see the TV in the living room and would watch films my parents put on when they thought we were asleep. Love and Death was mind-fuck for an eight year old. Absurd physical comedy coupled with Prokofiev? It looked like a grown-up film but it was funny enough to entertain a child. However all the Bergman references were unsettling. I was filled with joy and a tinge of dread. Later in life, a professor described my senior thesis directing project as “the work of a sincerely disturbed person who has an infantile sense of humor.” I blame Woody.
The Philadelphia Story (1940, dir. George Cukor)
Rear Window (1954, dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
Being brought up in a strict religious home where pop culture was shunned, it was all glamour all the time. No 80s teen movies or cartoons for me (I didn't see The Goonies til I was 27) ...
Instead it was screwball comedies, the Marx Brothers and MGM musicals. The Philadelphia Story was viewed so often that quotes would fly across the dinner table. That film had me rooting for my first “unlikeable” heroine.
Hitchcock was probably the first time I noticed what a director did and became aware of the camera as a tool. Rear Window is his best film. Economical, succinct, practically a play, painfully realistic yet heightened as all hell. It’s Hitchcock naked.
The Big Lebowski (1998, dir. Joel Coen)
Jackie Brown (1997, dir. Quentin Tarantino)
Many people assume from Bachelorette’s subject matter that I must’ve based the characters on my own friends from high school. That is not the case. I was neither cool nor uncool. Outside the action looking in at the nonsense of high school hierarchy. I felt like a spectator, with a wry voiceover. It makes sense then that I would gravitate toward these serio-comic neo-noir entries from two of my favorite directors. Before Lebowski-fests, there was the “E-period Crew” a co-ed group I ran with senior year. Armed with a VHS and White Russian mix, we spent weekends watching this now cult classic and knew every line. And while all the cool kids bowed at the alter of Pulp Fiction I had a profound crush on Jackie Brown. Probably because it’s subtle (not a word often associated QT) and, at times, truly romantic.
COLLEGE! (or as CMH likes to call it COLLLLLEEGGGGEEEEEE!!!!!!)
The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick)
Fight Club (1999, dir. David Fincher)
Here we enter a dark time. Going to college in New York City would’ve been intense enough but with the 9/11 attacks smack in the middle of those four years, a formative era was intense and harrowing. The upside was that it was also the first time I was creating art on a regular basis. During this period I watched The Shining so many times I probably should’ve been hospitalized. After forty viewings in one semester I stopped counting. To this day, the tinkling of the piano during the Warner Brothers logo on a DVD menu sends a shiver down my spine. Fight Club is just cool and I was lucky enough to see it during it's theatrical run before the ending had been spoiled by many a film nerd. That film set up for me a life long artistic need to make a joke about what’s truly painful. Fight Club began it all with an aggressive no-holds-barred mash note to cultural dissatisfaction. It would’ve started a revolution if music downloads and social networking hadn’t side-swiped us.
LOSING MY VIRGINITY!
(Give me a break. I was a late bloomer)
Rushmore (1998, dir. Wes Anderson)
Sex the first time was sort of a let down. I mean, I didn’t love or even like the guy. He definitely wasn’t interested in me. It was awkward, sort of empty and was done mostly to just get it over with. Afterwards, a thick disappointment hung in the room. My deflowerer half-heartedly offered up a solution:
Him: Do you wanna watch Rushmore?
Me: What’s Rushmore?
Him: The greatest thing you’ll ever see.
Watching Rushmore, naked, innocence freshly lost, was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. As the slow motion closing shot set to The Faces flashed before me, I was treated to the tears of real love and tenderness I’d hoped my first sexual experience would bring.
Thank you Wes Anderson. You saved Latin. But, for this cinephile, you also saved sex.