Sunday, April 21, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 04/20/19: *3 Women*, Relaxing at the Lounge, Leadman Larry Curry

1.  Several years ago, I watched a bunch of Robert Altman movies via Netflix DVDs and I'm trying to remember if one of them was 3 Women.  I'm fairly sure I watched it, but I wanted to make sure and quite a while back I ordered it from Netflix (well, and, finally, this morning, after a long wait, the time felt right to watch it again.

I knew as the disc disappeared into the DVD player that this movie was unusual -- I couldn't remember exactly what made it so, but I knew that I wanted to watch it when I felt well rested and focused.

By his own admission, as a director, Robert Altman isn't very committed to story telling. Instead,  his moving pictures tend toward being a series of impressionistic episodes loosely connected, working to evoke responses from the viewer that arise from the movie's visual text and sounds and less from getting involved in a developing story.

By setting this movie in the heat and expanse of desert land near Palm Springs, Altman creates cinematic images and impressions of open physical space, sparsely occupied. The desert gives us an external picture of an internal reality existing in two of the movie's main characters, Millie (Shelly Duvall) and Pinky (Sissy Spacek). Both characters are empty inside and look to sources outside of themselves in order to create what turn out to be insecure and malleable identities.

Millie looks to magazines like Good Housekeeping and Cosmopolitan to shape her sense of self and so he lives a color coordinated life in which her car, her apartment's decor, and her clothes are all yellow. She talks obsessively about recipes from these magazines and how long they take to prepare and deludes herself into believing that people love her dinner parties (that never happen) featuring pigs in a blanket and cheese out of a can on Sociables topped with an olive. She also talks obsessively about her romantic encounters, but they are ones she's read about and they never happen; she goes so far as to get dressed up and leave the apartment to go on dates that don't exist.

When we meet Pinky, she is a blank slate, a child-woman, and she looks more and more to Millie as a source of her identity and, as the movie develops, conflict develops when she gradually steals Millie's identity.

The third woman, Willie (Janice Rule), doesn't speak until the very end of the movie. She's a muralist, married to a philandering faux cowboy, a washed up stunt man, and the two of them own the bar, Dodge City, where Millie hangs out and they own the apartment complex, Purple Sage, where Millie and Pinky live.

I experienced the first half of the movie as social satire, taking us into the emptiness of kitsch and the decline of American culture, made visible by the deterioration of the Dodge City bar and its surroundings, the men's obsessions with motorcycles and guns, and by the greed of the husband and wife owners of the geriatric spa where Pinky and Millie work.

But, the second half of the movie takes a turn toward the Jungian and I began to realize that the movie's recurrent images of water and desert and the disturbing murals Willie painted were all contributing to Altman's exploration of individuation, of whether authenticity existed beneath Millie's persona and Pinky's, and, if it did, how it might be experienced.

I ran the movie a second time shortly after noon and listened to Robert Altman's commentary. He claims not to be conversant with Jung (or Freud for that matter), but talked a lot about how the first inklings of this movie came to him in a dream and how viewers might experience the movie as a kind of dreamscape. Jung's understanding of human psychology includes his idea of the collective unconscious, that there exists deep within each of us a shared collection of stories, images, and models called archetypes (they often appear in dreams) that influence human behavior and can help us understand ourselves and our lives. In his commentary on the movie, without using Jungian language, Altman asserts that the see things this way, too, that at some deeper psychological level, we humans are not as unique from one another as we'd like to think.

He underscores this way of seeing things as the movie concludes and as we see how the episodes depicted in this movie lead the three women to where they are at the end.

I'm not going to say where they are. I don't want to reveal the conclusion nor do I want to say how it came about.

I can recommend you see this movie only if you want to enter into a world that is surrealistic, dream-like, illogical in many ways, and much more committed to questions than to answers.

For many, its oddness is a source of beauty and magnificence.

Others feel it's an endurance test and wonder how they ever made it through its two hours.

I understand the second response, but I lean more toward the first.

2.  I joined two fantasy baseball leagues when invited to do so by Cas and Seth at the Inland Lounge. One league features weekly head to head matches between league members and this week I have been getting crushed by Ginger, a Lounge regular. After a shopping trip to Yoke's this afternoon, I stopped in at the Lounge for an hour and a half or so and, in the spirit of good sportsmanship, sat next to Ginger. Ginger enjoys acting like she knows nothing about baseball and that she picks players for her teams based on silly things ("I love to pick players whose names I can't pronounce. It works for me!").  We had a few laughs about that and before long Tracy arrived with a grocery bag containing something and it turned out to be an Elvis whiskey decanter and a Flintstone glass. It was a gift for Scott Wise in tribute to a song he loves, that he played on the juke box, but that I didn't know and I don't recall what it was.  I'll have to check back into this.

3. At Yoke's, I had a good visit with Larry Curry, who was the coach of our Wildcat basketball team two of the years I was on the team (1969-70; 1970-71).

Coach Curry was wearing Leadman Triathlon gear. Sure enough, he was a part of a team. One guy skiied, another biked, and Coach Curry was the team's runner.

The running part of the course is over 4.5 miles long.

Larry Curry is 80 years old.

His teammates talked him into running one last time as an 80 year old.

And he made it. He looked tired.  And, now, he was waiting for some food at the Yoke's deli counter and was pretty emphatic when he said to me:

"That's it. I'm not doing it again!"

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