Alice Hoffman said that books are the only true magic, and I agree they are truly magic. But I must confess that I also love movies and have felt touched, even changed by their magic again and again.
The best explanation I’ve found for the effect movies can have was in an episode of “Northern Exposure.” Ed, the local movie buff, has been enlisted to create a film festival that will get Cicely, Alaska on the map. Leonard, a shaman played by Graham Greene, comes to town seeking the “healing stories” of white people. Though the townspeople are eager to assist him, the stories they bring range from Paul Bunyan and the Blue Ox to assorted urban myths, like the one about spiders nesting in a woman’s beehive hairdo. Leonard is confused by these fables that lack the healing properties of great mythology.
Meanwhile, Ed has decided to dedicate his film festival to Orson Welles, but it has him so stressed he develops stomach problems. A discouraged Leonard wanders into the local movie house and finds Ed watching an old print of “Citizen Kane.” He notices that Ed is enthralled with the movie and appears to have totally forgotten his ailment.
Leonard asks and Ed says his stomach is better. Then he asks, “You’ve seen this movie a number of times?” Ed says, of course. “Yet you want to see it again. Why?” Ed replies, “It’s a great story, it’s beautiful. It’s fearless. You know that quote in the beginning where Kane says it might be fun to run a newspaper? Well, I think that’s the way Orson Welles approached this. It might be fun to make a movie. He didn’t know what he was doing and yet he did something that was perfect. Makes you think about what’s possible.”
Leonard ponders Ed’s words. “Maybe this is it,” he says. “White medicine. Movies. They say it’s magic. Seems to have cured you.”
If you also love healing stories that come to us through the medium of film, I would like to share a few small jewels that are available at Morrill Memorial Library or through the Minuteman Library Network.
Director Anthony Minghella’s first film, “Truly, Madly, Deeply” starring Alan Rickman and Juliet Stevenson, is a moving and funny take on a young, recently widowed woman who cannot find a way to leave her grief behind and begin again, until her husband’s ghost returns, along with several pals from unknown time periods, to help her do so.
Minghella later became famous for “The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and “Cold Mountain,” but he wrote this story for himself while he was also writing the Inspector Morse mysteries for the BBC. Minghella wanted to see the sardonic, martini-dry Alan Rickman play a leading man just once. Professor Snape, we hardly knew ye. Available through Minuteman
John Turturro is a virtuoso actor with a long list of credits, which include stand out performances in Coen Brothers movies, like “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?” and “The Big Lebowski.” But he is also a multi-talented writer/director with several films under his belt.
Two of my favorites are “illuminata” and “Romance and Cigarettes.” Both films are beautifully crafted, brilliantly funny slices of strange and wonderful life. “Romance and Cigarettes” stars James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Mary Louise Parker, and Kate Winslett, among others. In this one, you want to see Christopher Walken’s Elvis impersonation. Did you know the Scary Guy is really a great song and dance man?
Walken does another turn in “Illuminata” as an Oscar Wildian theater critic trying to seduce rubber-faced Bill Irwin; Susan Sarandon chews up the scenery as an over-the hill Sarah Bernhardt wanna-be; and Rufus Sewell (“Zen” on Masterpiece Mystery) finds ways to make you adore the narcissistic leading man by playing him fearlessly. For a preview of “Illuminata” watch Turturro and Walken with Charlie Rose at http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/4149. Both movies available through Minuteman.
“The Station Agent” which stars Patricia Clarkson (“Goodnight and Good Luck”), along with Peter Drinklage and Bobby Cannavale, is about the gift of friendship and how it can get you through a lot, even when you never expected to find it. OK, I admit I had to see the movie for the line about librarians at the end, but it was everything that came before that I loved. Find it at Minuteman.
Finally, I wish everyone in the world could see “Snow Cake,” which is available here at Morrill Memorial Library. It stars Alan Rickman and Sigourney Weaver. Weaver, sans glamour and firepower, plays a high-functioning autistic woman who ultimately helps Rickman put his life back together. If you think it’s going to be mushy, think again. There’s a knife at the heart of this film that neatly slices yours open and lets in the most glorious light.
The Minuteman Library Network has the Masterpiece Mystery “Zen” and all 6 seasons of “Northern Exposure,” including the movie episode called “Rosebud” in the fifth season. Morrill Memorial Library also has “The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain,” “The Big Lebowski,” “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou?” “Good Night and Good Luck,” and “Citizen Kane.”