Seeing The Wrestler at the Little

In our second attempt, Ali and I succeeded in catching The Wrestler at The Little (240 East Ave.) The basic story is that of a wrestler named Randy "The Ram" Robinson 20 years after his prime, and showing it.

Anyone who has a single calling that requires the physical attributes of youth faces a crisis when those attributes fade, be it an athlete or a roofer. The film's documentary style lingers on the desperate and sobering moments in Randy's life and I'm having trouble articulating my reaction to that. I guess at the core is pity and hopelessness: that I could see no way to help the character out of his present downward spiral, and I had no idea what would work for him.

Obviously, if he had planned ahead 20 years ago, perhaps saving some money or building other skills, he wouldn't be in this position. But once the train of your life gets momentum on tracks that don't lead anywhere good, what do you do? I guess making money where you can, hanging out with a stripper at the end of her career, and waiting to die might just be the only thing to do.

Overall we both enjoyed the film quite a bit.  It's a parable to the dangers of nostalgia — of lingering on the past just a little too long.  As such, I kind of left with a melancholic heart … with the tainted promise of past joy.

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Brand Upon the Brain! at the Dryden

I went to the Dryden Theatre at George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to see Brand Upon the Brain!. It was amazing. Afterward I told a guy I knew that I now needed to stare at a blank wall for 2 hours to understand what I just saw.

It opens with a straightforward premise: a man, Guy Maddin (the writer's alter-ego) is contacted by his dying mother to repaint his childhood home — a lighthouse and orphanage — so she can visit it again. But then it was a little odd in that it was essentially a silent film with narration that's divided into 12 chapters. It was also shot on a mix of 16mm and 8mm film then enlarged to the 35mm print we got to see. And it's in black-and-white except for a few splashes of color. And, although most shots run in linear time, some are punctuated with repetition, slow-motion, or brief flash-forward glimpses.

So Guy returns to fulfill his mother's wishes. However, he's overcome by memories and the film flashes back to recall his childhood. The grainy footage, editing techniques, sounds, and narration affect the romantic imprecision of memory: especially the uniquely childhood memories, formed out of imprecise opinions and blended seamlessly with fantasy. His father toils endlessly in the shop while his mother keeps watch on all the children from her lighthouse perch (and through the fanciful "Aerophone" communication device). Guy's childhood proto-sexuality is a mishmash of lust, solitude, and gender ambiguity.

In all, the effect is stupefying, like distilled nostalgia. The discolored, muted memory of living the first time through — of things that were intended to only be experienced for the first time, well, once. So to try and live the emotions again has this dirty, cold grayness — a harbinger to leave … or to paint a new coat on the past to make it go away. It's like our memories are scabs, begging to be picked at, yet punishing us for doing so … until they're ready.

So I left the movie with that feeling. Life in the past, death in the present. Remembering, forgetting. Smells you'd forgotten, the new scent of loss everywhere.

You know … too much beauty to take in all at once.

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