The Velvet Café

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In an empty cinema no one can hear you cry

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I’ve been a cinema visitor for about 40 years. But I’ve never found myself to be the only person in the audience until the other night, as I watched Beginners.

“Where do you want to sit?” asked the girl in the ticket box and I shrugged at her with a faint smile. “You tell me”. And she aimed and put her cross exactly in the middle of the salon. “Here”.

I waited patiently through the commercials, but once they were over, I felt that I was no longer under any obligation to adjust to the Wittertainment’s code of conduct. So I took off my shoes, knowing that I was likely to be resistant to the possible smell that would come out, and threw up my feet on the back of the seat in front of me, making myself as comfortable as I could. This was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, so I could as well make full use of it.

Tears in my eyes
And I guess I did, but in a different way than I had expected. The movie had all but started when I felt the first tears filling my eyes until they couldn’t hold anymore. Slowly the fluid surrendered to gravitation and started to fall down on my chin. And so it went on more or less through the entire movie – a silent, gentle and every so slow rain of tears, which never hold up for more than a few minutes at a time.

I didn’t sob loudly, because it wasn’t that kind of tears. But I sniffed every once in a while, without shame or fear or restraints, since I knew I was on my own. And I was grateful. If I ever was to watch a movie on my own, this was the perfect one for it.

Hopeful story
I’m not quite sure why it filled me with such a deep melancholy. Actually the story is more hopeful than depressing when I think of it.

Christopher Plummer is the father, who at the age of 75, after 44 years of marriage comes out as gay after the death of his wife.  He doesn’t let the fact that he’s got terminal cancer stop him from finally getting a lover, cherishing life and making the best he possibly could of whatever remains of it.

Ewan McGregor is his 38 years old son, who has to deal first with the shock about the true nature of his parent’s marriage, and then with the loss of his father. With a history of previously non-working relationships he meets Anna, a French actress and love starts to grow. Maybe it will be different this time?

Not much to be cry about, is there? And yet I cried, and I’d lie if I’d say that it was only because it was so beautiful and touching and uplifting, that it was the happy-end-kind-of-tears.

Some of them were, that’s for sure.  Others were previously unshed tears over my father, who I unlike in the movie really never got to know. There were also tears of sadness from the insight that deep down, we’re all essentially on our own, utterly alone. It takes courage to reach out and let others come emotionally close to us. Maybe there’s a potential for everyone to experience it, but it doesn’t come automatically and without effort.

Profound and cleansing
I think Beginners is one of those movies that don’t work for everyone. Your experience of it depends highly on your personal luggage and your mood as you see it. Watching it in a full salon with people who laugh in the wrong places, chain-chug crisps and let their fingers fly like butterflies over their cell phones definitely wouldn’t have been the same as to see it on my own.

I found it profound and cleansing. And actually – in the midst of all this sadness I’ve been going on about – quite funny and charming. I even smiled every now and then through the mist of tears, not the least at the absolutely enchanting Jack Russel Terrier who “talks” to the son through subtitles, reminding me a little bit of the commentary Snowy, Tintin’s dog.

The only reason for me not to give it the highest rating is the French girlfriend, played by Mélanie Laurent, who is a little bit “too perfect” to click with me. She looks gorgeous, quirky, smart, successful, and if she’s a little bit fucked up (she must be, it’s an indie type film), it’s in a way that makes you more interested than put off. But what do I know; maybe I’m just envious about not being her?

In any case, Beginners was a truly wonderful movie, one of the best I’ve seen this year.

It’s a little disheartening that it doesn’t manage to attract a bigger audience. It certainly deserves more.

Beginners (Mills, US, 2010). My rating: 4,5/5

PS
We have an announcement from the staff:  I’ll be away from the café over the next week going for a vacation trip to Scotland. However, since I’ve had a lot of movie thoughts on my mind lately, I’ve prewritten a few posts which will be served while I’m gone.

Written by Jessica

July 28, 2011 at 1:00 am

Posted in Beginners