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A Weekend of Difficult Mothers, Sad Sondhiem Interpretations, Puppy Walks and Samurai Angst…

Thus far it has been a very nice weekend. Friday night I took in an interesting British film which is playing in Boston for a limited run of one week. The film is by the director of NOTTING HILL — never a good sign, if you ask me. However, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that his new film, The Mother, is a powerful and profound study on humanity.

Watching it alone was really a benefit. It was quite interesting as the theatre was rather full. There were two female senior citizens sitting in front of me and two college age women sitting behind me. From the very start it was clear that this movie was making the Cambridge audience most uncomfortable, but also glued to the screen. Throughout the film the audience giggled uncomfortably, gasped in embarrassed tones and I suspected sickened many in the audience during more than a few scenes. I found it really interesting that the two old women reacted in similar ways to the two young women, but for very different reasons. Just a quick warning — if you plan to see this movie, I’ve a feeling I will be giving some spoilers to express what really fascinated me about the film.

The film follows the story of widow in her mid sixties who runs from her suburban home to the homes of her two adult children in London. Her children are terminally fucked-up and seem to be rather distant with their mother and her grandchildren are indifferent to both her and their parents. Slowly, we discover that the mother may not have been a very good mother to her children. It is quite clear that she loves them, but she reveals that she was too troubled as a young adult to be a parent. She fell into the role because it what society at that time dictated she do.

Now, close to 40 years later she looks at her son and daughter and feels the pain of guilt for having not been there for her children — but even more importantly, she comes to the realization that she wasn’t even there for herself. She has been walking in a sort of sleeping state from the day she married her deceased husband. As she tries desperately to pull herself together she also tries to mend some of the damage she feels she might have done to her 40 year old daughter who has fallen in love with the wrong guy. In her time of crisis, she falls into a passionate affair with the very man her daughter loves — the man the mother knows is trouble. However, she discovers a sexuality she never knew she had and truly blossoms in what she feels is a highly-charged sexual/love relationship with a screwed up man in his late 30’s — who we soon discover went to college with her 36 year old son. The sex scenes are graphic and the exceptional actress, Anne Reid, looks every bit like a a 60 something female. She is overweight, but attractive. The younger lover is a hunk, but a drug addict who is unable to hold a job. He doesn’t love her or her daughter.

During the sex scenes the old women in front of me giggled and whispered things to each other like, “Oh dear! Her breasts are as bad as mine!” “She is just too hot-to-trot” “Oh, please do not tell me she is going to put that in her mouth!” …The two old women giggled uncomfortably like two school girls. The young women behind me giggled at the same times but whispered things like, “Oh my God! Look at her tits!” “Jesus! I feel like I am looking at my mother nude!” “A woman that old would have no interest in a man like that! This would disgust my mom!” I just watched the film enjoying their collective reactions and thinking that it was so cool to see an honest representation of sexuality.

Of course, the mother in the film ultimately betrays both her daughter and her son — and, worse, herself. …again. In the end, her young lover debases her when he realizes she has no money to offer him, the daughter’s hatred and anger are no longer suppressed and her son is revolted by her behavior and the fact that she so hurt his big sister and the mother is left alone in her empty suburban home looking at the house slippers of her husband. Early in the film, she disagrees with one of her son’s wishes and he advises her that she should not be difficult. She looks him squarely in the eye and states that she has every right to be difficult. …But at what price? Although all of the above sounds quite tragic and sad, the film actually ends on an empowering note as we see the mother dry her tears, pack some clothes, a drawing pad, an empty journal, a pack of pens and a passport. She leaves her suburban home behind and the film ends as we see her walking toward the train station headed for a new beginning.

I loved the movie. The rest of the theatre seemed to be upset. I think that we Americans are terrified of sex, horrified that parents might not be as human as we are and we are unwilling to accept personal responsibility for ourselves once we become adults. We all make mistakes. No one has not been hurt. And, despite all protests — sex and the need for food are two of the most important human drivers. The bottom line is that the past colors our present and future, but it is not changeable and we all must find a way to move on to new adventures and to new beginnings. Fuck The Cleavers and the Bradys — they do not exist. …As much as we all wish they did. Our culture is in a bad need for a new awakening to reality.

My pal Doug back in Salem advised me to pick up Cleo Laine’s CD of Stephen Sondheim songs. I did. He was right. This CD rocks! …well, it rules anyway! However I had to listen to it twice. This afternoon I layed down in the grass (gasp!) in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge and listened to the entire CD on my Walkman. It took me a second listening because Laine’s voice is a bit different and her interpretations of Sondheim are very different than the ones I am used to by Streisand, Buckley or Stritch. However, her approach is less dramatic and more straight ahead. Her cover of “Losing My Mind” is one of the saddest I have ever heard. Brilliant CD! If you don’t have it, you should go get it! …However, I have to say that she has trouble with “Everybody Says Don’t” and “The Ladies Who Lunch” Those songs really need a bit more drama.

After listening to Ms. Laine I walked to the Kendall Square Cinema and saw The Twilight Samurai. I hated it. I was expecting an historically accurate classic samurai action flick. What I found was the sort of movie that the Academy Awards love — lots of sentiment with over-wrought music. …and no real sword fighting action to speak of. The lead actor was cute, tho.

Tonight Karl and I had dinner at the Boston Beer Works — which serves surprisingly good food! We then took Dusty on an extended walk and subway ride to PetCo to purchase puppy supplies. It was a nice evening. Now, I am listening to Lena Horne and plan to watch a DVD before going to sleep. …and, as it is 2am now — I will be sleeping late!!

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June 5, 2004. Uncategorized.

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