Thursday, February 05, 2009

Where Is This Love?

Have you seen the movie Closer? Kate, Lindsey and I watched it the other night. I warned Lindsey ahead of time - "It's dark," I said. "It will not make you feel good." But we both wanted to watch it, so Lindsey said "Let's do it!" and we forged ahead, with our popcorn, and hot buttered rum and Swiffer the cat on their big old couch.

Closer is a liar's movie. One of the characters is a photographer, which, I am starting to suspect, is always a dead giveaway that the whole thing is about writing, in some way or another. Then of course, there is the fact that one of the other characters is a writer. The other two? A stripper, and a dermatologist. At one point in the movie, there's a great scene where the dermatologist thunders at the writer - "Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, wrapped in blood! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!"

Kate and I both laughed at that bit - "You writer!" Beautiful.

The first time I saw Closer, I was in love. This made it so hard to sit through people torturing each other with their obsessions, cheating on each other, then extracting the details of the infidelity so that the torture is just that much more distinct. Unencumbered by love now, it all seemed so interesting to me, while Lindsey squirmed in her seat and said "This is so uncomfortable to watch!"

I just wanted to think about why we do what we do. What parts of it are worth doing, which parts we should find a way to let go. In Closer, a lot of those questions revolve around the truth, and what knowing the truth means, and where it has value, and where it destructs. At some point in our lives, haven't we all done this when someone hurt us - wanted to know the last little detail, thinking that it would tell us why? The image of the heart belongs to this movie so perfectly - the dermatologist not just being a dermatologist but a surgeon, someone who knows well that an intimate familiarity with the facts of that fist wrapped in blood will do nothing for your understanding of what we think of as the workings of the heart. Those things will not be dissected. In places, the film flashes forward in time, big jumps with the characters switching partners, without showing us what happened in the time between. Everything about the dialogue reminds us that we would not have known any more about the reasons had we seen the intervening scenes, because there is something deeply capricious about the characters making the choices.

In the advertising campaign, the tag lines for the movie was "Those who love at first sight are traitors at every glance." and "If you believe in love at first sight, you never stop looking." In a pivotal scene, the writer says to the stripper character "I fell in love with her, Alice," and she says back to him "Oh, as if you had no choice? There's a moment, there's always a moment, I can do this, I can give into this, or I can resist it, and I don't know when your moment was, but I bet you there was one."

That's a line I've thought of from time to time since the first time I saw the movie, and was only one of the reasons that I found myself identifying with the stripper character. Kate and I ended the movie satisfied, maybe because we were able to find some comfort in the two characters who were not artists, and who were, ironically, the most willing to lie for love.

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