When I Lost My Innocence


Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979)

No, it's not what you think. Not exactly. But Being There is the film I associate closely with a turning point in life, the moment at which everything changed. It was shortly after attending a rep house screening of Ashby's whimsical fable with my dearest and closest friend, that said friend died of a mysterious ailment. Out of the blue, touched by the hand of God, whisked away by the whims of fate. And Being There, our final social outing, is the fulcrum on which this out of balance teeter totter rests. I haven't been able to watch the film since, although I bought the DVD in hopes that someday I'd have the courage to do so, yet moments from it remain burned in my memory. The contrast between Peter Sellers' Chance, and his clear-eyed, uncomplicated take on life, and the nest of snakes my own had become is still palpable, as is the idea that a nation's leader could be so swayed by simple homilies and messages of no discernable depth.

And yet, millions more have seen--and claim to love--Forrest Gump. Don't we deserve smarter idiot savants than that?

10 comments:

Rob said...

Ala Gump, well spoken. My eldest son and I can hardly watch it with company.

I had a platonic friend who was my film pal for years, and who, even tho I was her close friend, held all at arms length, preferring to compartmentalize. I never was allowed to meet her family, she smoked when out with me, but never with them, dressed differently for each group's social occaisions, and surprised the heck out of me in college one day by just disappearing with her family to the East Coast without a word of advance warning. We never hit on each other, altho she wasn't quite plain or quite pretty - she could look pretty damn good in a sundress with her bangs wafting in the AZ breeze - sniff! - it was an unspoken fear, mutually, that we would break the bond between us, I guess. She was the best shotgun I ever had when I was twisties running in various sportscars, and memorized many lines from movies so she could blurt them out at grindhouses during quiet moments. Her heart was on her sleeve, and her emotions and intentions were so transparent, I see a connection with "Being There" to the extant she always said what she meant, without artifice, but people mistook what she said often enough. I mourned for her, 'cause I never heard from her after. There are a slew of films and songs I have trouble watching or listening to, they remind so much of her. Sometimes I wonder what happened to that girl, even today.

BCNU

swac said...

Me and Jill were the same way, although the last time we were together I told her exactly how I felt about her, and although it came as a shock to her, she was touched and wanted to think things over, although the huge hug she gave me as we said goodbye told me everything I needed to know. I never saw her again.

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen related:

Me and Jill were the same way, although the last time we were together I told her exactly how I felt about her, and although it came as a shock to her, she was touched and wanted to think things over, although the huge hug she gave me as we said goodbye told me everything I needed to know. I never saw her again.

*****
That's an awful to have happen, Stephen. I can't say I ever had a relationship with a woman that had so many dimensions; they've either been friends or lovers, never in between. I can only imagine what she meant to you.

swac said...

Let me put it this way...as cynical as I am about relationships these days, I can think back to a time when I met someone who I thought was The One. Of course, things may not have panned out, either one of us may have strayed or simply got sick of the other, but for a brief moment, that feeling was there, and I can't deny that fact. So when people tell me they don't believe in true love, or love at first sight, or even monogamy (I've heard all of these arguments in the past few years), I would tell them that I would agree with them, if not for the fact that I'd felt what I'd felt at one time, which has always left me with a nagging sense of hope.

And, just so I don't look like a total loser, there was someone else after that who generated a similar reaction, with an outcome nearly as tragic (or perhaps more tragic, depending on how you look at it) but that's a story for another time.

Rob said...

Stephen -
I wish you hadn't had to go thru those tribulations, however some would say it's better to have loved and lost.... but I ain't one of those, tho. I really was hurt the first time when she left in college, and it was long time B4 I went movie hopping by myself. I tried to rope a buddy into the film game, but the first midnite movie we went to was "Freaks", and he swore off anything movie-oriented with me. Weanie. I married the wonderful girl I was always madly in love with soon after, she was The One. That was one reason I couldn't hit on my movie girl, and I'm sure she realized the same thing - she was smart as a whip, and way ahead of me socially in most ways, even when I knew her grade school. That was what was fun about going to movies with her - she was always ready to take one more step ahead of me, or at least it seemed so, and she really enjoyed film.

Strangely, when I have dreams about my first meeting with my wife, looking at me in a side-glance, her long hair parted a little to one side, with a pale green tie worn stylishly loose over an off-white blouse, they're like silent movies, with me as a camera doing re-takes over and over. No sound, just that sly look of hers. One day soon after, she came to a pool party in a white bikini, we talked for hours, and that was it, I was hooked - another scene I replay in my dreams. Curiously, when I dream of my young screening partner, (rarely nowadays, tho - but this thread'll get me started again - Samurai movies do it, too) I'm always hearing her voice. How weird is that.

swac said...

Well, I'm still hearing Jill's voice in my head, and it's been nearly two decades since she departed this mortal coil, so it's not weird at all.

I once took a billionaire's daughter to see Blue Velvet...she gripped my arm through the whole thing, and I was the happiest lad in the land. Later we did a double feature of The Trip and Psych-Out, and when I visited her apartment for the first time, she had a nice half-sheet for the screen version of The Subterraneans on her wall (I still haven't seen the damn thing myself). Sigh...

But this town was too small for her broader horizons, and she was off to New York...I hear from her every couple of years, but not nearly often enough. There was never anything romantic between us, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't horribly crushing. And that was even before I knew about the billionaire part.

Tom Sutpen said...

A co-worker who reads this blog from time to time told me on Monday . . . this was upon his reading it for the first time after Stephen joined . . . that it reads like two guys nearing middle age using Pop culture images to make sense out of our lives and loves (he wasn't criticizing it by the way; just the opposite).

I have to admit, I didn't think that was entirely inaccurate.

swac said...

Well, as Nico once sang, "I'll be your mirror." And I've been searching for meaning I can relate to in films and music ever since. And when it arises, it can hit home with the force of a lightning bolt.

I hear a song like "Your Ghost" by Kristen Hersh or see a movie like Million Dollar Baby, and the roller coaster starts all over again.

Tom Sutpen said...

Stephen wrote (quite eloquently, as usual):

Well, as Nico once sang, "I'll be your mirror." And I've been searching for meaning I can relate to in films and music ever since. And when it arises, it can hit home with the force of a lightning bolt.

*****
Absolutely. This is something I think has been lost (for reasons too numerous to count here) from so-called serious criticism; whether it be of music, of film, of any art. And yet the emotional impact a particular song (in my case the aforementioned "I'll Be Your Mirror", for example; or, to stick with Nico, "These Days") or a film can have on an individual is to me the most important function of all art. I don't think it's an exaggeration, or something particularly embarassing either, to say that certain works of art, certain artists, have shaped my life, for good or ill, more than a lot of the people I've known throughout it.

I'm guessing that's the same with you, Stephen. Hence, this blog.

I hear a song like "Your Ghost" by Kristen Hersh or see a movie like Million Dollar Baby, and the roller coaster starts all over again.

*****
I'll tell you, the day I can no longer respond emotionally to a work of art, of whatever discipline, is the day I'm prematurely dead.

Rob said...

Tom said -

I'll tell you, the day I can no longer respond emotionally to a work of art, of whatever discipline, is the day I'm prematurely dead.

Well spoken. I may be middle-aged, but I've pursued the meanings of my life thru cultural idioms my whole life. I've enjoyed the hunt, mostly, and it's kept me engaged with the changes that impinge on my reality, rather than wrestling with Laocoon's serpent to keep things at bay. If I can't be passionate about art, bury me too.

BCNU