The Peculiarities of Love
Way Life Should Be is a great movie. Made in 1974, it was the first
film by Christopher Hauer and it starred Jules Arvini and Helena Gottfried.
Set in New York, itís a stylish film about three people (the third one
is Stefan Palmer, a fine young actor who was killed in a car accident in
1976 before he could realise his full potential), who share a run-down
apartment building and must deal with their landlord dying. Each
comes to discover that this stranger whom they each only see once a month
is important to them on a personal level.
So far as Iím concerned, there is no better film than The Way Life Should Be. The last girl I dated, her name was Jessie. She couldnít stand The Way Life Should Be. She thought it was trite and over-wrought. We tried to make it work for a few months, but it was really over before it had even begun.
Although Christopher Hauer is an exemplary film-maker, he isnít my favourite director. Heís one of them, of course. The Way Life Should Be, Just Down the Road, and of course the multiple award-winning Me and Mr. Wink are all excellent films. But very few of his films can compare to those of Daniel Turé, especially Turéís Une Maison Bleue, Cassandre, or Le Timide. When Turé died in 1998, he was part-way through a film starring Gilles Laurent (better known as the bad guy in A Bullet and a Name). It was going to be called Fondements. I guess Iíll never see any of that movie, though I saw some reels of it being auctioned on-line. It was way too high for me to be able to afford, though.
So thereís this girl at work named Sara. I donít normally associate with people at work, but just the other day I saw her reading a biography on Ronald MacTavish. I went up to her and asked her about the book. Ronald MacTavish, it turns out, was born in Glasgow in 1971, but moved here when he was seven. His first film was Dr. Revenge, released straight to video in 1990, and he made two or three more B-grade films until the success of The Blood of 200 Men in 1994 got him Studio notice. Now he tends to make more solemn and heartfelt movies, Tears for William being the most recent as of the publish date of the book.
The only movie of his I had ever seen was The Shoppe on the Corner 3: Closing Time. I didnít even realise until I was speaking with Sara that the same director of Tears for William, and the movie awarded best-picture for 1996, In-Between Branches, was the guy whoíd done Shoppe 3. My older brother has no taste in movies, and is a big fan of schlock horror. He has all the Shoppe on the Corner movies, except for the fifth one, The Shoppe across the Street. My brother doesnít count it as part of the series. Iíd seen all of them as a child, but had generally, in my adult life, dismissed them as movies unworthy of attention.
When I got home, I borrowed my brotherís copy of Shoppe on the Corner 3, and put it in the VCR. And I was impressed, some what. The film didnít follow traditional horror story-telling styles. Many of the camera angles were well-conceived, and several times through out the picture, there were moments of true emotion. One got the feeling that these customers were not simply chaff for the Clerk from Hell, but rather three-dimensioned individuals, who just happened to get caught up in a horrible situation.
So during one of our breaks, I confronted Sara about the film. I mentioned that Iíd seen it, and enjoyed it. I asked her if all his films were similar. Apparently, his early films have several elements in common: the camera angles, the emotion. His later films are more Ďstraightí stories, but still carry with them in-depth characterisation, with more subtle camera experimentation. They also, his later works, have elements of the schlock that started MacTavish off. Like In-Between Branches has a scene in it at the beginning where the main character sees a man slaughtered horribly. And his latest movie, Returning Home, has a scene which could be considered a nightmare sequence and could be considered a fantasy, wherein one of the characters pounds her mother to death with a hammer.
I tell Sara that if she likes these sorts of movies, she should really watch Stitches. Stitches is a brilliant black comedy about a man who has to transport a corpse across country, but some how all these horrible events happen, causing the corpse to be sliced, dismembered, burnt and such. The director of Stitches, Mark Werner, has made other movies, also black comedies, but none have the energy and wit that this one does, due mainly, I believe, to the comic genius of its lead actor, whose name is Deacon Way. Deacon Way currently stars in the sitcom Punching In. Some how, he hasnít been able to do any thing quite so good as Stitches since either.
Sara asks me whether Iíve seen The Sole Ambassador. I have, of course, who hasnít? But I tend to think itís over-rated. She explains to me that she used to think, too, that it was over-rated, until she started thinking of the whole movie from the car crash until the bit with the cop at the end as a fantasy of the motherís. You see, just before the car crash sequence, the cop comes in and tells the mother that he has to speak about her son, the Ambassador. Then we see the son get in a car crash, an attempted assassination, getting caught in a bombÖitís like these are the things that are going through her head, fearing the worst about her son.
I think about The Way Life Should Be. But itís too soon in our relationship to mention the big one. What would be next on the agendaÖ? Maybe leaving her with one recommendation is sufficient for nowÖ But I have to get more into my favourite movies. For example, Starship 39. The Science-fiction genre these days is usually pretty lame and predictable, but every once and a while, a film comes along that shakes things up. Starship 39 was an independent film released in 1999, and while there were no major stars, it had a few important guest stars, including John Comet himself, Terrance Jacobs. Starship 39 is a film about a young boy who meets an alien in his back yard, and flies off to the double-R Galaxy, in order to assist a race of benevolent cat-aliens in defending their home planet from the evil Gorgors. One of the greatest things about Starship 39 is that, in this age of science-fiction realism that doesnít quite cut it, this film is not trying to be realistic, and plays like a childís fantasy. Even the special effects are crudely done, but this adds to the films over-all atmosphere.
So the next day, I bring Starship 39 and Stitches. She brings The Sole Ambassador, and as well Turn to Him. I ask her what prompted Turn to Him, and she says that itís her favourite movie. Iíd never seen it, but it does star Pete Darren, and heís pretty good, so I donít object. So she was showing me her favourite movie. Already. Maybe Iím behind with the times, here. It seems to me that we have to get a lot closer before you put it all out on the line like that. I shouldíve brought The Way Life Should Be.
Turn to Him stars, as well as Pete Darren, Gloria Bertucco before she became famous. I donít think this was her first movie, though. Iím pretty sure this came after Rose Water. Turn to Him is a romantic comedy that has Pete Darren as a painter who, through an unbelievable set of circumstances, paints Gloria Bertuccoís house by accident. When she returns from vacation to find her house bright pink, she confronts him, and although they start out adversaries, they grow to love one another and live happily ever after. I have no idea how this could be any oneís favourite film. Itís directed by some guy Iíve never heard of, the acting is done with out any effort put in at all, the dialogue is tired and obvious. Turn to Him is a new low in a genre of lows. I can only assume that Sara was going through some thing similar when she first watched this, or that she in some other way idenitifed with it.
The Sole Ambassador is also not good. Despite what Sara had to say about the film, I still do not like it. If you take the movie as-is, with the continued assassination attempts of the Ambassador, itís a pointless movie. If you start looking for hidden meaning, as Sara does, well the movie shows itself to be trite and over-wrought. I just donít get it.
But it turns out Sara didnít like my movies, either. She didnít like Stitches because, of all things, it has voice-over narration. See, the point of the narration is to give the movie a noir-ish feel, which dominates the atmosphere of most of the film, and makes more ludicrous the accidental destruction of the body Deacon Way is trying to transport. And as for Starship 39, I believe the word she used was Ďlameí. She accused me of liking it only because Iím the only one whoís ever heard of it. The thought going through my head as she said all this was, Ďwell, I guess I donít have to worry about how she likes The Way Life Should Be.í
So I go back to work, and donít much bother with Sara after that. But one day, about a month later, this girl named Sing comes over to me around quitting time. Weíd been talking casually about movies recently, and she asks me if I want to go see a showing of The Peculiarities of Love, which is playing at an independent theatre down town on Friday and Saturday. Iíd never read the novel, but I decide to go for it. But before she leaves, I ask her if sheíd ever seen The Way Life Should Be.
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