Saturday, July 3, 2010

Did You Pick Up the Eaves I Dropped?

Overheard at Chico's
Customer: I bought this in another state.

Clerk: ...of consciousness?
Customer: My daughter says it doesn't look good on me.
Clerk: Would you like to exchange it for something else?
Customer: My son-in-law's waiting in the car, so that could be dangerous.

I have several backstories for a lot of what is going on here and I may develop it into something at some point, but for your further eavesdropping pleasure, you may want to sample these posts from other snoopers:
Tell me your own overhearings in comments or link to your blog.

Yesterday's post started a discussion in comments that I would like to continue here. After all, a movie is a form of eavesdropping and that's how I came upon that scene from The Last Picture Show. I dropped in on it while flipping through cable stations, looking for something that would put me to sleep. The first time I saw that movie 39 years ago, I thought each black and white frame was a masterpiece. The story was intriguing, but it didn't slam me like Wednesday night's viewing. Accumulated time just pounded in that final scene with a force that drove home issues I have lived. I think some of you have lived the same issues.

For those not familiar with the story of The Last Picture Show, the Timothy Bottoms character is a high school student who has had an affair with the coach's wife, played by Cloris Leachman. So you were right, 'Out on the Prairie,' she is old enough to be his mother. Timothy dropped Cloris cold when the Cybill Shepherd character swooped in on him and Cloris was devastated. What the movie left out of the final scene, which is in the book, is the narrative of her thoughts when he returns 3 months later. She rationalizes,  "He's only a boy."  

'Standing on my head' commented that Timothy's whipped puppy look would not work on her and that she could forgive, but not continue. Terresa said forgiveness is a gift. Jonas offered a quote about forgiving others often; ourselves, never. Alesa said it depends on the person and the wrong - the face has nothing to do with it. Vicky said she could be shmoozed. Angryparship said a definitive "NO." To forgive her sociopathic X would be to condone his terrible behavior. The "oh woe is me, nothing is my fault" doesn't quite make it anymore. Limes said she is an easy forgiver and that humans are renewable. She has been both hurt and amazed by humans.

My emotional response to the last scene of The Last Picture Show speaks to a common theme that jangles me to the bone. I can't form a cogent sentence to describe the theme, but it has to do with love, forgiveness, boundaries and HOW TO BE in this world. This is not the only movie that has brought up this theme for me.

Have you ever been in a movie theater and upon seeing something, wrenched and shook in your seat with so much emotion, it was embarrassing?

The first time that happened to me, I was 8 years old. It was the last scene of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel. Billy Bigelow has come from heaven to try and help his widow and daughter. They are abjectly poor and the daughter, Louise is made fun of for her shabby clothes and pitiful state. It is her high school graduation and she is standing next to her greatest tormentor, the daughter of the richest man in town. Billy has been given a chance to influence her as a mortal and has failed, so as a spirit, he is granted one last chance to encourage her. He whispers in her ear that she should have confidence in herself. The music is soaring (I think it's "You'll Never Walk Alone") and with an assured smile on her face, Louise puts her arm around her nemesis.  I lost it. I mean I really lost it. My little 8-year-old self just wept, and I didn't know why. I think now it was because seeing the extension of love to a tormentor pointed out an earth-shaking truth, one that I needed to embrace to be healthy. But, of course, it doesn't mean we always have to literally embrace our tormentors.

Another time I embarrassingly shook in my theater seat was at the revelation of the underlying trauma in Prince of Tides. This time the shaking was more like an uncontrollable shudder. Too close to home. If you know the movie, no explanation is needed. 

Yes, life doesn't play like a movie and we can't extract lessons as if movies are representative of any depth of wisdom, but they can point out issues we continue to deal with. I continue to be confronted by my emotional reaction to movies, poems, stories - any form of art that speaks to the limits of love and forgiveness - all the facets of reconciliation and redemption, renewal of innocence and HOW TO BE. I guess what really got me about Timothy Bottom's face was how I've never seen that or experienced a man saying he was TRULY, DEEPLY sorry. It's a fantasy, one that shook me to the core when I saw Timothy's face. Oh yes, if I ever saw that, I'm afraid I would be Cloris Leachman and reach out and say, "never you mind, never you mind." I also believe I have hurt people deeply enough that I long to hear those words spoken to me.

Please tell me what movie scenes have elicited strong emotions from you and how you've dealt with it, or address what the limits of love and forgiveness should be - what the facets of reconciliation, redemption and renewal of innocence are and how TO BE (I'm not asking much, am I ?).


  1. It’s rare for me to get caught up in a film to that degree. I’m usually well aware that what I’m watching is not real and that these people are pretending. There have been a few exceptions. The first one that comes to mind is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the final scene where Chief Bromden smothers McMurphy and then makes his big escape. I was probably seventeen at the time. It was also the first time I’d a) tried to get into an over-18 film and b) gone to the pictures on my own. I could also add a c) here – cried like a baby over something not real. I came out of the cinema and was very glad I wasn’t with anyone or was noticed by anyone I knew; I felt quite exposed.

    How did I deal with it? I’d like to say that I shrugged it off but the fact was I was deeply affected by it. It didn’t change me but what it did do was make me aware that my perception of myself was short-sighted, it was based on everything I had experienced up until that time and clearly there were experiences to come for which I was unprepared. So I guess it made me a little more . . . not so much wary as aware.

  2. JIM - That movie (and book) was powerful for me too. I think Hollywood counts on our ability to get carried away and I know they try to manipulate that. I have found myself so wrapped up in a movie, fists clenched and jawed gripped that I have to make it a practice to take a break, look around the theater and reorient myself.

    The music at the end of One Flew... really helped to complete the intention of the final message. Do you remember it? For the most part, I think it's a good thing to have your awareness expanded.

  3. There actually wasn't that much music in the film - a lesson some younger film-makers could learn a lesson from - but I do remember it, in fact I have a copy of it.

  4. When we react to a movie, story or poem we have reacted to the empathy that the person making it was trying to possibly portray.Many of us overlook this emotion when reading or watching these works of art. When I well up during a movie scene it makes me enjoy the movie better, feeling an emotion another was trying to portray.Sometimes it does relate to your life, so it expands into another area of thought.I think back to when I ran a Young Writers Conference and passing many works back and forth that were totally amazing what these people had already experienced in their lives.these authors opened their heart, and we need to do the same in our world to make it better for all to live in. Love cures a great many ills, and to be able to forgive is a very positive emotion to make your life more fullfilling.

  5. O.O.T.P. - love your example of the young people opening their hearts through their writing. Love does cure ills and sometimes a broken heart is open enough to let even more love in.

  6., you're not...
    Fantastic post!

  7. You write so well, and have so much to say. I will just offer that I go to movies especially to experience "other things", more like an escape or a vacation. I like to get caught up in a film. Experiencing emotions is one of the key reasons to go, for me. My first experience of deep emotion was Gone With the Wind. I went to the movie six times in six weeks, and bawled harder every time. I think I was 14 or 15 at the time. It probably had something to do with realizing that people would actually leave, and mean it...maybe the beginning of the abandonment issue. I could go on an on, but I'm going to confess a recent experience. We took the grandkids to Toy Story 3, (big mistake, don't do it.) Allison and I choked up and tears leaked at the end of that one, which is a Pixar animation, for "crying out loud!" *pun* Whoever cries in cartoons?? I mean, other than "UP", which was a tear-jerker, too.

  8. heck I get choked up with a good episode of Monk. Watched Gary Sinise's remake of "Of Mice and Men" last week and remembered doing the scene in an acting class where George shoots Lennie. I couldn't do it even in the false atmosphere of class I couldn't pull the trigger. Maybe it was the doe eyes of my partner but I couldn't get it done.

  9. DONNA - I'm glad you don't think I'm asking too much to want an explanation to all of life and I appreciate your hug as an answer.

    MARIE - Why shouldn't I take the grandkids to Toy Story 3? I need a good release. Yes, cartoons can make us cry. Remember Bambi? I'll never forget taking Todd to Snow White in NYC. He was 3. When Snow White ate the poison apple and her 7 little friends gathered around her, thinking her dead, Todd wept tears of the truly heartbroken. It made me cry to watch him. I wondered at the time if it would scar him for life.

  10. TAG - So glad Monk does it for you. His OCD kinda makes me want to cry too.

    Also glad you couldn't 'gitter done' even in a pretend situation when it comes to murder.

  11. OK, I just said I liked the movie without offering any opinion on forgiveness. So, I'll offer an opinion here. I can forgive a person who done me wrong, but it's hard, if not impossible, to recapture the earlier relationship that may have existed. There's kind of a sense of innocence lost.

    Interesting your comment about "he's only a boy" being left out of the movie, because I think it's written all over Cloris Leachman's face, though I think you have to see the whole movie to come to that conclusion. Plus, most of the movie is from the Timothy Bottom's character's point of view. If you don't know that, and just watch that final scene, well, yeah, he looks like he might be faking the whole sad dog look to garner some sympathy (as well as some nookie) I can assure you, folks, he's not.

    Scenes that's affected me in movies are too numerous to mention. I'll just give you a recent one. I watched Rebel Without a Cause the other night, not for the first time, and saw something I may have missed in earlier viewings, or maybe it just didn't affect me as much. After being involved in a game of "chicken" that resulted in a death, James Dean want's to do the right thing and tell the police what happened. His parents, who've been wanting him to do what they consider the right thing throughout most of the movie, now want him to do the wrong thing, and just shut up and forget the whole sorry incident. Maintaining a proper middle-class appearance is the right thing as far as they're concerned. Then to hear James Backus, excellent as Deans's father, give Dean these hollow, empty platitudes, that solves nothing, well the whole scene had a ring of truth that still seems relevant even though the movie's now 55 years old.

  12. Me again. Another scene from Rebel Without a Cause. Dean goes to the the police station to tell what happend, and gets the brush-off!

    You can never find a cop when you need one.

  13. I'm having trouble with the assignment, Kassie. I can't land on a movie scene that's profoundly affected me. Probably just part of the general malaise I've been feeling. I'll keep thinking about it. And I do believe I picked up at least some of your dropped eaves. ;~}

    @ Tag ~ that is one of the many things we love about you, friend.

    @ Kirk ~ about the innocence lost. I I agree with you. But I'd submit that a new reality can be developed if people have sincerely forgiven. Sometimes the new is better than the old. I've experienced it. I've got a "new" brewing right now.

  14. I'll have to come back to you on this: thoughts, memories, emotions and movies are all bobbing up and down like meerkats who sense a predator. And I really must get some sleep.

  15. I rarely see movies but one that I did enjoy was "Sabrina" with Harrison Ford. My favorite line was to the effect the he was the world's only living heart donor ...

  16. Two movie scenes that hit me powerfully: in Kenneth Brannagh's Henry IV, the end of the battle of Agincourt and the madrigal sung as they wandered past the dead bodies. I was in tears and walked home [lived in NYC about 1-1/2 mile from the theater] hearing the music, feeling like I had just lived that battle.

    In Martin Scorsese's Kundun [about the Dalai Lama] his most arty scene was the most powerful-- when the Chinese shot a few red robed lamas in the invasion of Lhass and then more and more and the camera pulled back and the dead lamas lay so they formed an enlarging rose pattered on the pavement. It was at once terribly painful and terribly beautiful in an awful [awe-ful] way.

    Both scenes were about death, both were horrible and ennobled at the same time. Both times I walked home feeling stunned, not really seeing people around me but glad to have physical movement to put me back in touch with my own world.

  17. My goodness

    I love cinema, there's a huge tread between everything we do and the magic of movies... I don't know about you
    but I got myself sometimes daydreaming who gonna play me in the movies. sometimes a fat version of my life deserve someone else than the one I imagine.

    I was happy to be able to jump from my regular stuff and go back to painting, paint was my first medium.
    I was a little rusty, but as soon I started I just couldn't stop.
    the very last two ones I did in 17 hours, a very gratifying experience, I should tell you,

    Thank you for your feedback


  18. For me it was "Out of Africa." The airplane scene where they are flying over the beautiful scenery and Meryl Streep puts her hand behind her head to clasp Redford's (Isak and Denis.) I wept because it was all about how glorious it is to have someone who just gets you THAT much. Funny, the time, I had no one.

  19. Thanks for the mention, Kass, even if I did so much worse than you at eavesdropping!

    On your question about cinema - I ahd to go and see 'The Elephant Man' eight times before I could stop crying enough to see the end. Needless to say I was going on by own by that stage. Impressionable age.

  20. You want me to tell you how to be?!

    I can only say what I find difficult to forgive, and that is someone who refuses to even try to understand why what they did fucking hurt and that it's going to take a lot of time to process: the "I've said I'm sorry so why can't you move on, is there something wrong with you?" sort. If someone accepts responsibility for their actions and shows, by subsequent actions not just nice words, that they feel genuine remorse, I can forgive pretty much anything. The relationship will never be the same as it was though, how can it? So then one has to decide if the relationship one now has is desirable, and that's a whole different matter.

    Now for films: I can't remember specifics but do remember both snorting with laughter and sobbing several times during Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe; gasping most of the way through The English Patient and then nearly collapsing when he comes out of the cave carrying her body: the look of agony on his face! I still can't watch that scene without crying. The bit in The Station Agent when he takes the groceries to Patricia Clarkson and she treats him like a stranger, oh god I wanted to reach into the screen and give him a hug.

  21. KIRK - This forgiveness thing...and the innocence lost...haven't we all been guilty of offenses that Shakespeareanly stink to high heaven? If we all meet each other at the table deserving to be stoned, can't we see that knowledge of another's misdeeds doesn't always have to lead to loss where innocence is concerned? Isn't innocence in this sense, a certain kind of ignorance? Do we really want that kind of bliss? As so many people have said, I guess IT DEPENDS...on the offense, a possible pattern for the involved parties,...etc. I have NO answers, only questions.

    I agree, "he's only a boy" is written all over Cloris's face and actions. Strong acting. She deserved the oscar.

    The Rebel Without a Cause scenes mentioned are the very stuff we feel most frustrated about in so many social and political settings.

    LES - "...a new reality can be developed if people have sincerely forgiven." This reality is the redemption I crave. Newness brewing all the time!

    SUSAN - I enjoyed Sabrina too. I was partial to the original with Audery Hepburn, though.

    JUNE - It's interesting how music can add to the impact of a scene. I know what you mean about the fine line between pain and beauty.

    C. L. - I love this phrase, "...the fat version of my life." I agree with you about the huge thread between how cinema informs us and how we lead our lives....ALSO, love your painted pianos.

    MARIA - Out of Africa holds many memorable moments for me too. To find someone who gets you is rare. Hold on tenderly, not tightly.

    B. BIRO - Glad I saw your eavesdropping prompt, even if it didn't work out as we both had hoped. I've never seen The Elephant Man. Another one to add to my list.

    ERYL - I don't really want you to tell me how to be, I'm just always curious about how other people resolve the issues that haunt me.

    I agree with you about the acknowledgment part of forgiveness. It's H..U..G..E! I don't think we expect an offender to camp out in his/her remorse, but if he/she doesn't go to the depths they've driven us to - to feel what we felt - it's hollow. "Woops" just doesn't cover it.

    Yes, yes. I love Fried Green Tomatoes.., movie and book. So much redemption there.

    Now I'll have to rent The Station Agent. Thanks for returning after your sleep. Hope the paint ball festivities went well.

  22. The movie, Glory, is a movie that I love, but one that I have a hard time watching. The depiction of the fighting scenes are almost too realistic. Even though I have seen it multiple times, I cry every time I see it. The deaths at the end are heartbreaking, reminding me of what my ancestors had to endure while loving a country that didn't treat them as human beings, yet the slaves were willing to forgive.

    Sometimes I just fast forward to the credits and listen to the music, which also brings tears to my eyes.

  23. CHRISTELLA - It's so good to hear from you again. I thought that Glory was hard to watch too. So beautifully done, but painful. Even though we read and see depictions of what the slaves had to go through, I don't think we can ever really know.

    Now I'm going to have to go to iTunes and listen to a bit of the music.

    Again, great to see your smiling face. Hope all is well.

  24. people were waiting for the pool to open, finally an attendant comes out and says "Sorry the pool isn't opening the gizmo we sue to clean the pool is on the friitz."
    And I over hear one guy say to another nodding knowledgeably, "Yeah that's because of the nuclear power plants. The pools would work just fine if it weren't for them..."
    Later on my way home from work two young guys sitting on a car, one says to the other: "It's not a nation unless you get bananas to defend."
    Huh? : j
    I hope their conversations made more sense with the context, but I wouldn't bet on it.
    Forgiveness... Is relative. There can not be a single answer so long as people vary so much from one individual to another.
    Personally, I accept much... If it coems to a degree requiring forgiveness, I forgive a little... Beyond that forget about it: I forget as little as I can.
    There is a scene in Fallen Angels by Wong Kar Wai that just cuts me up every time. When the woman realizes she can't hold onto the main character. It's partially because the actress looks a lot like someone I knew well many years ago, partially because it's a feeling I've felt once before.

  25. For the movie moments, I need to go away and come back again...a medium that is a thread running through my life, and my mother's before me.

    Forgiveness was a state I rejected for years, feeling I was capable of acceptance, whereas forgiveness was something only Divinity could dispense. I have come to know it differently, to know how much it applies to forgiveness of my own human, multiple mistakes and how I participate in my own redemption. How could I extend any less to others? I believe we are here to grow softer, more pliant; to learn to be of service to others and to love.

    And...I believe writers - and other artists - are translators, able to take emotions and experiences and express them in a way that makes them something we can access and recognize as part of us.

    Great discussion. Thank you.

  26. OK, I'm going to break with tradition and mention a book -- Little Women -- where Beth dies. I was in 5th grade -- it devastated me -- I sobbed for a long time. Years later, I was Beth in the play, and it all came back.

    I can't yet think of a movie, so I'll mention the final scene of Les Miserables, one of the few musicals I have seen. It reminded me that all the sorrows of life only enhance the joy of "making it through the rain."

  27. I am sure I've commented on this once before - must have fallen into some big hole somewhere.

    First of all, an excellent post. After which: I can only remember two occasions on which I was shook and wrenched in a movie theatre. The first time I was (I think) around five years old, b ut could have been a year or two later, and Bambi was the occasion . The second time I was in my teen s and watching the liberation of the concentration camps. I think you could read all sorts of stuff into that.

  28. Blogger is having problems with comments...many complaints about last night. I left a comment before anonymous, for I found your topic and discussions really spoke to me. Sigh. Things we cannot control...

  29. I didn't know Fried Green Tomatoes... was a book, another for my list!

    I forgot about the Eaves: A woman in a cafe in Annan (near the paintball site) 'I've got a yellow suck on my toe.' I don't know if 'suck' is Annan dialect.

    Another woman: 'I'm not going to stay up to read a book, am I?'

    Yet another woman: 'Yes, but she's slim you see?'

    I never ever get to hear the responses, so I guess I'll have to make them up.

    Do let me know what you think of The Station Agent if you see it.

  30. Dear Kass, a scene has immediately come to my mind, in the Titanic when he, Di Caprio, in the freezing water must leave her...and she is going to be saved, K.Wislet,...a great, a heartbreaking separation.

    And the devastation at the end of the film "Underground" by the Serbian Kusturitza ( God knows the right spelling of his surname!) when a chimp staggers among the smouldering rubble.

  31. ALESA - I think the eavesdropping thing was pretty much a bust. It's like planning to be spontaneous.
    The movie you mentioned is one I've not seen, but now would like to. I liked what you said about forgiveness. It's a hard topic with a lot of nuance and variation. It has to be taken on a case by case basis.

    MARYLINN - I think what you said about forgiveness is just brilliant.

    ANONYMOUS SISTER - I do remember you as Beth is Little Women. I think that part of the book and movie is hard for a lot of people. And MAKING IT THROUGH THE RAIN is a great metaphor for seeing through the tears. I'd forgotten that about Les Mis.

    DAVE - Bambi and viewing documentaries of concentration camp liberation - equally touching at different ages of our lives.

    ERYL - I love the yellow suck on her toe. It belongs in a poem somewhere.

    DAVIDE - I agree about the water scene in Titanic. It's wrenching. I will have to look up Underground.


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