The beginning of the end happened a long time ago. But now that end is ending, I hope.
I remember, actually pretty distinctly.
You see, walking, for miles, late at night, is really, really important to me. Maybe I would like Providence more if it were bigger, and more atmospheric. Regardless.
When I lived across the river from DC, I was only a few blocks away from the George Washington Parkway, and the bike/walking trail alongside it. I walked that trail many times, sometimes all the way into, or back from, DC, over eight miles. This trail, which runs along the Potomac River, mostly leads through wooded areas, though also around and underneath a power plant, and also alongside, well, an airport. Now you know why this place is called what it is (assuming you haven't read all the way back to the very beginning).
Walking past the terminals towards DC puts the walker alongside the runways themselves. There are fences, of course, and I can picture them in my mind quite clearly as they were alongside me when I came to the inevitable, and inevitably disillusioning, realization, that, art, is, a lie.
Maybe it was some Rothkos, or some Bacons. Something I had seen earlier that day in the National Gallery. Who knows (me, but not now)?
Of course I was depressed. I want to live in paintings, and also Truffaut's Paris and Antonioni's Rome and also, of course, Chicago in 1987 and London in 1993, and yeah, New York, 1945 to, say, 1997, maybe 1999. But only because the closest thing to living inside of records is living inside the culture that generated them.
And gradually everything fell away. I think the visual arts, and architecture were first. Then film. Then reading anything besides social theory and music criticism. Grand hotel abyss. Music has stayed of course. Like any great love, music is capable of both disillusioning and healing the disillusionment.
But last night, I said it. I'm sure I'm not the only one to have done so, but it's hard enough to say what one means, and to mean it, but when someone else says it, what does that mean?
Art is not a lie, it is a fiction.
I don't quite know the ramifications, but I know I am relieved. Not all that I wanted, but not none of it, either.
All of the above is a preamble. The real news is the following:
Criterion are releasing their typical deluxe versions of some really, really great films very soon.
First comes Seconds, John Frankenheimer's barely-seen and stunning film from 1966 (though I'll tell you right now, it does sort of fall off of a cliff in the middle and then climb back up again). The film is deeply, and thoughtfully critical, already, of the 1960s, and the limits to ideas self-transformation that were becoming articles of faith for so many. The idea is not, silly hippies, things can never change, but rather, if your understanding of yourself is superficial, all changes that follow from that understanding will be superficial as well. If "yourself" is American society... yeah, you get it. All that AND some of the most innovative cinematography since Gregg Toland's work on Citizen Kane. Yeah, THAT good.
Secondly, three films I haven't seen. Rossellini's work with Ingrid Bergman is not as well known, or as critically-acclaimed as his earlier war trilogy and his later biographies, but, but. Ever since I saw Scorsese's Voyage To Italy (my favorite film of his, possibly his best, certainly his greatest gift to humanity), I have been waiting patiently, desperately, hopelessly, faithfully, for someone (though who else would do it?), to release definitive editions.
You see, many films have multiple versions, and in many cases, those versions contain, well, bullshit endings, ones not desired by the director, done to make the film more palatable. So it's not even worth watching them until the correct version is released by someone who knows what the correct version is and has access to it.
Consider Stromboli, one of the aforementioned three films (and bear in mind this plot summary is coming straight from my recollection of Scorsese's summary):
Woman starts in displaced persons camp after World War II with no prospect of being taken in by any country marries Italian man as a means of escape. She travels with him to his hometown, only to discover that she is now trapped on an island with an active volcano in an intensely parochial, and, of course, very small town. A casual, non-physical encounter with another man is witnessed by villagers, who tell her husband, who only has his manly pride to hold on to. He works to makes her life even more hellish than it already is. She eventually leaves him to travel over the volcano to catch the only ferry out (I almost wrote home, but, for her, there isn't one to return to). She collapses with exhaustion. She wakes up. Cries, is overwhelmed with the beauty of life and the possibilities that may still exist. And. Then. Goes back to her husband and everything is fine.
Last sentence a little confusing? That's the ending you don't want to see, the ending I doubt Criterion will release. Bless their hearts. I want my fiction to be truthful.