04 August, 2009

On Love (As It Once Pertained To My Art)

There's something about my perception of relationships that's changed over the last couple of months. [This was originally written in 2005.] Or at least I've realized it over the last couple of months, so that's pretty much the same thing. And I don't mean me THE MAN, per se, but me THE ARTIST (and, however linked they are, and they are, this realization was born through that latter part of me). And I'm sure something to this effect has crossed my mind before, but I haven't really thought about it (maybe didn't truly realize it) until now.

For the first third of my career - for somehow I see myself living to ninety, and that I shall somehow be writing right up until the end, my final masterpiece simply unfinished - I've written about love-lost. Much like the greats - Casablanca comes to mind, but there are many - most of my heroes don't "get the girl:" Ireilas, Three On A Match, Didn't We?, John in the novel, Moses in Pair Of Kings. If they do, it's a "down" ending (Backstage Pass), straight fantasy (Season Of Mists) or doctors (i.e. not originals such as Greetings From Asbury Park and Decapitator). Or it's a non-issue altogether: Sexton and Didi in The High Cost Of Living, Santeria, Pair Of Kings, The Magic Carpet and The Crown Of The World. In fact, it's only the comedies where I let love reign: the 100 Proof series and Nantucket Sleighride, and only then because comedies all but demand an "up" ending. [And forgive me for discussing so many titles like that, as if most of you have heard of them, much less seen or read them. But this was originally a journal entry and I’ve left it as in-tact as possible.]

When I have put people together - two couples (planned) in Another Day So Far, Tom's moment with the bar-girl in Kings, the parents in Carpet or Crown, and you presume both Sexton &Gloves and Tommy & Christina get a shot after credits roll in High Cost and Match, respectively -- it's really just the b-story. Because the real story, the meat and potatoes of the thing, is the love-lost one. Like Casablanca (it really is the perfect example), I'm infatuated with the idea that, even if my hero wins, he or she's lost the only thing the adventure was fought-through to begin with.


And this, dear readers, is the man-behind-the-curtain insight here. This is what I'm admitting to. Since for this first-third I didn't have someone significant in my life (or, more accurately, the significance was scattered over too many someones), it was easy (and, let's be honest, therapeutic) to write the same for my hero. If I should lose love, then so should he or she. It wasn't a conscious thought but, as I say so often, hindsight's twenty-twenty. So as I look back on this first-third, there it is, clear as day. And, sure, it can easily be attributed to that great author's adage of "write what you know." And, sure, Casablanca is great to aspire to. But neither knowing a lot nor aspiring to a great movie will help you write better. (However therapeutic it is. And it is. But that's for another entry.) I wrote about love-lost because that's how I felt. That cynicism. That noir-like sense of self-sacrifice for a greater good. The "down ending." More Out Of The Past than Holiday Affair (look them up if you have to; see them if you haven't). So that's what I wrote about. That's what I tried to write OUT of. (And BIG man-behind-the-curtain moment there.) Look, Beck didn't write Sea Change cause he'd just fallen IN love with someone. And Richard Curtis didn't write Love Actually when he was twenty (hell, even thirty). They are both -- while both MAGICAL -- products of what each knew, what each aspired to, and, just as importantly, where each was in their lives THEN.

Yep. I'm talking about love again.  And how a different ME has given effect to a different artist IN me.

For the past couple of months, it's the ARTIST in me that's evolved from the first-third to the next-third. Or, as I wrote, it's there that that realization took hold. As I think about stories now, they all have a more hopeful tone to them. Or, rather, the stories that I'm thinking of telling next have a more hopeful tone to them. Of course, I don't mean to imply that, as Barth and I finish Didn’t We? [as of this blog-post in 2009 STILL not finished] I all of a sudden want to give it a happy ending.  No.  The storyteller must always serve the story. (And tattoo THAT behind your eyelids, as one of my mentors, William Goldman, has often said.)

As I think of new stories now, I want them to be happier ones. Less cynical, and more hopeful. Less "down," and more "up." Love-FOUND. Much like when you've broken up with someone, you listen to break-up songs, and when you fall in love with someone, you listen to fall-in-love songs.  I don't mean I want my stories to go G-rated. I think you can give hope an R-rating. (I also think you can make a good GANGSTER picture with a PG-rating -- White Heat and Key Largo come to mind -- but I digress.)  I'm just saying that I want to see my next hero have a little hope.  To ENJOY life a little.  Win the game AND fall in love.  Why not?  After all, it's a story.  So win-win.

And I've recently read/watched stories differently;  especially, say, a Woody Allen. I think about relationships differently;  have relationship-conversations with friends differently. It was easier in life's first-third to write an Ireilas than it would be now. Perhaps I could (of course I could) but it wouldn't be what I'd CHOOSE to write. At least not right now. Didn't We? maybe, but even that's a little "down," isn't it?  Any, second-third is a little more grown up, a little more mature.  And I find myself appreciating that.  At least to a point that that's what I want to write about.

Have you seen The Notebook? Not only did it make me (and half the world) cry, want to move to South Carolina, and fall in love with Rachel McAdams, it renewed my faith in this silly little emotion we're talking about. I remember the first time I saw it; alone, on the couch, half in the bag, simply blown away by the thing. Take a bow Mr. Cassavetes (director), Mr. Sardi (adapter) and Mr. Zigman (scorer) for making this old man feel young again. And it's a PERFECT example of what I'm talking about;  the kind of story I'd like to tell.  Dramatic, sure. That's necessary. But sweepingly romantic in its look at love (something, I believe, is too often lost in today's aesthetic).

My God, if you haven't seen it, as gripping as this journal entry [blog] is, minimize it, run out, and buy it. Don't rent it, don't NetFlix it, BUY it. You'll thank me. I promise.

Anyway, Nicholas Sparks (the book's author) does a really good commentary on the DVD. (So does Cassavettes, but that -- and how I met him, and we got to chat about the movie -- is, again, for another entry.) On his commentary, Sparks tells a great story about his wife's grandparents. They were unable to make it to Sparks and his wife's wedding.  So, the next day, Sparks and his new bride got back in their tux and gown and drove however many hours to her grandparents' house where they ate wedding cake and watched a friend's camcorded video. And it was while there, enjoying that time with them, that Sparks saw the same love in his grandparents' eyes as he and his own wife now shared.  ALMOST SEVENTY YEARS LATER.  So he decided to tell his story from that point of view. And, so, The Notebook was born.

It really is a great story, and I hardly do it justice. Well, Sparks does it WONDERFUL justice, as you'll hear when you watch the commentary on your new DVD. Now, see? Aren't you glad you ran out and bought it? Good looking cover isn't it? Beautiful people kissing in the rain.  Yeah, the marketing guy that came up with that is mighty proud of himself.  It's on the one-sheet, the DVD cover, any new printings of the book, everything you SEE for The Notebook has that image on it now.  Anyway ...

It's Sparks wife's grandparents' story that's the kind of story Sparks likes telling. He goes on to say that he could easily make more money in thrillers than he does in this "romance business" he's in, but those aren't the kind of stories he wants to tell. He doesn't want to spend eight hours a day - ten, twelve, FOURTEEN hours a day - coming up with how to kill someone. He'd rather spend his time coming up with how to make someone fall in love.

And I can't say I blame him. In eighteen scripts (and four more unfinished ones), half a novel, a handful of short stories and TV shows, and these musings [journal entries, blogs, however they're viewed], I've killed and broken-hearted my fair share, played sociopath to more than that, and peppered too many plots with more profanity and promiscuity than were necessary.  And maybe that's why I dove into the kids fair -- Carpet and Crown -- for a bit. I'd just come off Backstage (writing and shooting) so it was time for something light. Well, now it's time for a bit more. I don't know what yet. But something ...well, “nicer."  And THAT'S the meat and potatoes of the thing, isn't it? I mean, really?  If not for the whole next-third -- Christ, I'd be sixty -- but at least for a little while. Lord knows there's enough booze, bullets and babes left to be enjoyed. 

So for now -- as the great Lenny Kravitz says -- yeah, let love rule.

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