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Black Lamb


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The language of me

September 1st, 2003

seussmanhiding.jpgBY DEAN SUESS

Man of La Mancha begins with the narrator’s invitation, “Come, enter into my imagination.” And as easily as that, no matter what the film, I am instantly transported into the land of make-believe. Utter fantasy, taking at face value the admonition to suspend my disbelief. I am a complete naïf about movies; whatever appears on the big screen is true within its own universe. It’s rather like the French language, I suppose, which makes exquisite sense only in French. If the Académie Française can dictate a comme il faut for sixty million people’s vocabulary and grammar, then the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can certainly insist on the same iron-fisted mind control when it comes to cinema.

I can’t tell you any actor’s real name, or stage name, but I can recite the roles a particular person has played, such as the rather large man who works as a substitute kindergarten teacher, acted as a futuristic robot in a time-travel flick, and committed some pretty hokey barbarian adventure movies. Old what’s-his-name. His real identity is irrelevant to me. He simple is whoever he portrays at the moment I view the film.

So it should come as no surprise that I use motion pictures solely as an escape medium. If anything appears contrary to real life or Newton’s principles of physics, I let it ride. After all, who am I to sit as an arbiter of the fake? Much of my life has involved hiding realities, hiding from truths too painful — or requiring more courage than I have — to face. I simply take movies at face value, or less than face value. Cardboard acting and poor (if any) plots don’t disturb me at all. Nor cardboard sets. I am so coarse in my cinema criticism that I happily accept green faces even when they aren’t attendant to a sci-fi movie but only occur when the color on the television set has failed.

I imagine myself like the man described in C.S. Lewis’ poem “A Confession”:

I’m like that old man Wordsworth knew, to whom
A primrose was a yellow primrose, one who doom
Keeps him forever in the list of dunces,
Compelled to live on stock responses,
Making the poor best that I can
Of dull things…

I simply accept what is projected on the screen. Critical thought is not involved. I’m pleased when the good guys win, think appropriately negative thoughts about the bad guys, and can even be drawn into the psychological depths of a drama, so long as the Raisinettes™ hold out.

Then consider how forcibly struck I was by a movie that didn’t require my disbelief or allow me to sit passively enjoying my chosen couch-potato voyeurism of escape. This movie disenchanted me completely. There it rolled, my tawdry life on the big screen! See the movie — read the book. Either will do. The Lost Language of Cranes is my life in film.

How could it be? How could anyone know? It is the stark portrayal of a man failing in his fight against his homosexual nature, who has to accept his son’s “enviable” coming-out, and ultimately must confess his perfidy and adultery to his wife. Certain he loves her, he begs to remain married, not only for the social convenience or the comforts of a home, but for reasons he is incapable of articulating. Once he poses his self-absorbed question, she answers, “What about me? What about how I feel, what I want?” He has not considered her emotions, and for that devastating oversight her crushing “no” is inevitable.

The Lost Language of Cranes nearly disenfranchised me of my self-indulgent “right” to ignore any significance a movie might offer. However, now that I reside in a prison, what movies I do get to see must continue to be a means of escape to a place that can, for me, live only in my imagination. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Movie Issue, Suess | Link to this Entry


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