watch one of my found cut-up films above
I don’t remember going to my first movie. I am told it was Dr. Zhivago in the Spring of 1966. I was 2-years-old. During the intermission my mother was asked to leave the theater because I was running in the aisles and talking to people. Who takes a 2-year-old to a 3-hour 17-minute movie about unrequited love during the Russian Revolution? A 24-year-old woman suffering through the unrequited love born of a revolution 40 years later and 90 miles south across the Florida Straits. I’ve seen Dr. Zhivago a dozen times since then — unable to thaw its impenetrable winters.
There were other movies in the intervening year, those memories are missing in the folds of time, but I remember in 1967, just before I turned four, I was at the movies with my parents watching A Man and A Woman. The man and the woman onscreen were kissing in bed, there was a flash of a breast. I was hoisted out of my seat onto my mother’s lap; her hands rose like two moons knocked out of orbit, and pressed into my eyes — a total eclipse of light. I heard the man and the woman onscreen moaning. It sounded like pain at first, then something else — something foreign, something sinister? An amour fou? My mother clamped her forearms hard to my ears; my head in a vise now. Insensate now. Deaf, blind, and dumb now. Who takes a 3-year-old to a movie about unrequited love between a widower and widow? We left midway through the movie. I’ve yet to see this movie through. But my mother played the soundtrack for years, every Saturday morning, while she cleaned the house. Love still eluding her, twisting up in fine motes scattered by the feather duster — and beyond the stretch of the vacuum hose.
My grandmother dropped me off at the movies a few times when I was 6. My parents did not know our secret. I’m not sure what she did after she dropped me off in the comforting gloom of the Tivoli Theater. I imagined, years later, she was meeting a man, and she was “the woman” in A Man and A Woman. She was a widow of sorts — a widow of the Cuban revolution. I imagined the “man” was Alberto — the man she eventually married — in Miami on a visit from California or Puerto Rico. I remember seeing The Jungle Book on one of these excursions to the Tivoli. On another visit there was a Vincent Price double feature: The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Conqueror Worm, which I never finished seeing because she came back to pick me up midway through the movie. Who drops off a 6-year-old by himself at the movies on a midweek mid-afternoon? I never seen The Conqueror Worm in its entirety. Bita’s unrequited love needed “requiting.” I needed the movies.
My father and I bonded at the movies when I was 10-years-old, in the wake of his dying marriage to my mother. We were at the movies nearly every weekend during 1973: Sleeper, Papillon, The Sting, Westworld, Live and Let Die, Day of The Jackal, at least one film a weekend, sometimes two. But it was that double bill of The Aristocats and Song of the South I remember most vividly. While Uncle Remus sang, “my, oh my, what a wonderful day…” my father broke out sobbing. He said he messed up. He said he missed us. He said he was sorry. He wanted to come back. I held his hand. I didn’t understand what was happening. I had never seen him cry. After a while, I said I had to go to the bathroom. I called my mother from the safety of the phone booth in the lobby. I told her he said he was sorry. He was crying. I was crying. She had to take him back. She said, “That a son of a bitch drug addict. I’m going to kill him —” and hung up. Who takes a boy to a Disney double feature and breaks down with bluebird on his shoulder? I was isolated there in the phone booth under a flickering, failing, light. I never wanted to see that movie again. What else could I do now but resolve to make my own movies one day? I swore to myself I’d never shoot a happy ending.
“It’s not easy to sit down every morning with next-to-nothing and try to make something appear. But we do it because doing it beats not doing it.”
— Austin Kleon