Friday, March 6, 2009
horton foote 1916-2009
we've all been so distracted lately, what w/mike getting ripped off & all, that we've missed some news that really matters. i didn't know that foote had done the screenplay for "to kill a mockingbird" but that movie & novel always struck me the same as it did flannery o'connor: "anemic." i can't say i'm a fan of a lot of his movie work & i can say i don't really know any of his work on broadway. i do know he wrote one movie that's always been near & dear to my heart, what w/combining(not really that hard, it's true)country music & alcoholism.
"tender mercies" is about someone on the other side of the wreckage their drinking has caused & that person trying in their own way to move on from it. robert duval plays a former country star(let's say, george jones)who's working on his recovery & doing his best to acknowledge & accept responsibility for a past he can't really recall. an alcoholic confronts all kinds of reactions to his recovery. there're the folks who won't forgive, no matter what. there're the folks who forgive too easily. there're the ones who worry the good times are all over & the ones who want them to start. there're the tangential nobodies who weren't really a part of the whole mess but carry some kind of never ending grudge & there're the assholes who involved those nobodies for no good reason other than jealousy or ego or mind games. the list is endless. trust me, i know.
in the movie, there's a scene where duval is trying to connect w/but shield his daughter from what he was &, maybe, what he might become. his blackout has pretty much encompassed most of her teenage years. lots of pain & unanswered prayers have brought them to this one moment. she asks him about a song he used to sing to her when she was a baby. she can't recall it. it had something to do w/birds, maybe.
duval hesitates but then says, "no, sorry, no i don't recall that song." for a long minute his daughter stands, not really believing but also, you can tell, not understanding how something that might connect them can't be remembered or didn't exist. it meant a LOT to her. she wheels around & leaves.
cut to duval, looking out a window. he sighs. "on the wings of a pure white dove, he sends his pure sweet love, a sign from above, on the wings of a dove," he sings clearly, & maybe for the first time in the movie, while keeping time w/his boot clad foot. out of the depths of a fractured memory, the alcoholic remembers what someone else, who needed to, couldn't. the things we remember & cling to, good or bad, is a cause for wonder. how we choose to share those things, good or bad, is too.
i can tell you that if i ever come close to writing something like that i might just leave it at that, pull up stakes, call closing time. whatever. it doesn't get any better than that. a drunk can never, ever, save anyone but him/herself. a lot of folks who've been effected by drunks don't get that. ever. but they blame the drunk, no matter what. that's cause it's so easy to blame a drunk, even if they're not drinking. i don't know if horton was a drunk but he nailed that moment & so much more in that movie.
america has a lot of writers who fly under the radar for whatever reasons. they write regional fictions. they write "small." they write about things no one coming to broadway wants to know or hear about(august wilson & tony kushner). horton foote wrote about texas. he was a writer & now he's dead. he connected once w/me. i think that connection makes everything, even high priced tickets, tolerable. what do i know?