How does one write about a film that has been analyzed and dissected for over thirty years? Especially when the film maintains as much social and political resonance as when it was made? Can I dig too deep into a movie and make something out of nothing? Maybe
What if the movie is trying to show me what I am becoming as a viewer, as a voyeur? What if my drive and ambition is not focused on what the movie is about, only the ‘larger picture’? What if, as Harry says, “I don’t care what they’re saying, I just want a nice, fat recording.” Could it be that I forsake the entertainment value of pictures in order to find a deeper artistic meaning, something that can satisfy me on another level that might not be intended at all? Perhaps I should just enjoy Transformers rather than debate the merits of bloodless combat and the attempt to make us identify with inanimate objects.
I have sat alone in a darkened room, and played over and over again a piece of plastic in order to find something that I believe it there, but cannot pinpoint. At times, I have become sick of perfectly good movies because I have merely spent too much time with them, albeit, by my own doing. At that point, I wonder if have become like Harry Caul. Clearly, Harry is terrific at what he does and enjoys it to a certain extent. However, he can never take full satisfaction by his accomplishments since he pushes himself to do better and distances himself personally from the subject matter.
Have I done the same? In order to try to become a better writer and critic, have I given up been entertained by entertainment and instead become obsessed with what I perceive to be underlying themes, subliminal messages and nods to current events? How can I enjoy The Dark Knight when I’m marveling at the commentary on society’s values instead of a tricked out Bat-pod? When I worry that censorship will infringe of the basic human rights to make some dick jokes? How can I think about The Conversation as a simple movie by Francis Ford Coppola and Gene Hackman when the morality and ethical questions raised by the subject matter are political fodder for our current presidential campaigns? Or whether or not Harrison Ford’s character was gay? Will it make a difference at all? Probably not.
Have I become so ensconced in my own world that I cannot let anyone in? Sure, I like going to movies by myself or with select friends, but when Harry lets people into his world, it comes crashing down. What if the same thing happens to me? What if Harry is showing me that the end result might be the destruction of my world, at my own hands, with nothing to show for any of it? Does the paranoia people perceive in Harry perhaps play as protection for actor and director? If Harry has nothing else but his work and his privacy and his work has been taken away from him, will he stop at nothing to defend his privacy? Of course, there could have never been a bug in his apartment, but that’s not enough to convince Harry. If you told me tomorrow they were going to remake North by Northwest, I would be furious until my dying day, never convinced that it would NOT happen, only waiting for it TO happen and it would be enough to push me over the edge.
Where did I go wrong? Should I have just listened? Or like Harry, should I dig deeper? Is it prudent to go looking into situations beyond your control for answers you might not like? I’m not involved in any capacity in the films I watch, except as an audience member, so why should I try to become an active participant? Why can’t I take a step back and maintain my distance as an observer? Why can’t I just call them ‘movies’ every once in awhile? Will I succumb to the same fate as Harry when I become tortured by my own thoughts and imagination and impotence to affect change in these movies and give it all up for the saxophone? Will anyone remember that I used to play the trombone in grade school? Am I getting way too existential? Do I even know what that word means? Do I sound like I do?
Will I ever enjoy movies like I did when I was young? Or has being behind the curtain and seeing the strings, learning the rope trick, the three ring trick and the disappearing coin trick jaded me to the movie magic that filmmakers are trying harder than ever to deliver to me and the masses?
Well, Dark Knight did make me feel like it was 1989 again.