Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Joy of Keepers

I've just spent the last two nights watching Empire of the Sun. I missed it 20 years ago because I had four kids and a husband and a job and a rabbit and a life. And I didn't need to see Christian Bale at age 13 because I had my own 13 year old boy underfoot on a daily basis. I had no trouble imagining how he'd cope if the Japanese invaded our house -- and I didn't have two and a half hours to spare watching Christian do the same thing.

Now, however, I am old enough to appreciate the film. And Christian is old enough for me to have appreciated him in quite a few movies over the past year (catching up, I was), not to mention appreciating him in the title role of Max Valentine in Liz Fielding's wonderful Valentine Bride. So in the interests of research, I thought I'd go back and see him -- and appreciate him -- at 13.

He was fantastic, which I know Ally Blake could have told me. Sorry, Ally. It takes some of us a while to catch up. And I appreciated him very much.

But I was simply grabbed by the film. I was enthralled by the characters and the adversity and how their dire circumstances brought out the real essence of their characters. It was an action film, of course. But even more than that, it was a character film. The best of both worlds, really. And I loved it.

It reminded me of The Rabbit-Proof Fence, another story showing how adversity brought out the essence of character and demonstrated their resiliency and determination. Both of them face the issue of confinement -- and deal with it in completely different ways. And yet both are testimony to the determination to survive and to triumph.

I have watched The Rabbit-Proof Fence three or four times now. I'll be doing the same with Empire of the Sun. And as I realized I'd put it in that category, I started thinking about what made a book or a film or anything else you might think of, a keeper.

I'm working up to writing a piece for the Pink Heart Society blog on their Friday Night Film page in a couple of weeks (March 30th actually, so 3 weeks). And I've picked my film. I watched it the first time about 6 or 7 years ago. And then I watched it again and again. It was definitely a keeper for me.

My familiarity with the story didn't make it less appealing. In fact, while the first time through was wonderful, delightful and fun, all my subsequent viewings were, if possible, even better -- because I could anticipate what was coming.

The joy of keepers, I think, is in knowing what's coming and relishing it ahead of time, anticipating it, getting a head-start, as it were, feeling the rush and then riding the wave of emotion full on, participating in every second of it.

It works with books, rereading favorite parts or the whole thing (I go back to Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice at least once a year). I just thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Match Me If You Can. I still delight in Laura Kinsale's Midsummer Moon and Lisa Gregory's Rainbow Season and dip into them regularly. It's the same with children's books as I posted last month -- the anticipation and delight are there every time I read them over (even if I'm reading them to kids who've heard them hundreds of times before or if they are absolutely new to the story).

It works with film (Rabbit-Proof, Father Goose, LA Confidential, the Damian Lewis version of Much Ado About Nothing). It works with art -- I have certain paintings at the Frick Museum in New York that I like to stop and visit when I'm there. They are my keepers, even though I'm only allowed to keep a postcard of them at home.

It work as well with food (which is why I always eat the fish tacos at Houlihans' even though I'm sure there are other perfectly decent items on the menu, and why when I pass through Kaycee, Wyoming I always stop in an effort to rediscover the best green chili burrito I ever had.).

It even works with scenery. I grew up in Manhattan Beach. The pier is a part of my emotional landscape. The beach to the south of it is my home base. I keep it in my heart and in my photo albums and, every time I go back, I take more pictures -- keepers. The very act brings back feelings and memories and events -- stories -- that are part of who I am.

Keepers, I think, do that for us. They are touchstones of emotional experience. They resonate with who we are. They affirm our past, our understanding, our humanity. They make us nod, or sigh, or smile. Or cry. They touch us and, in some way, they give us pieces of ourselves and help us become whole.

Our lives are richer for them -- and that is why we keep them. So we can recreate those moments. So we can feel again the connections, the memories, the promise, the ache, the hope -- whatever each of them brings to us.

I've told you some of my keepers. I'd love to know some of yours. Please share.


Blogger allyblake said...

Gorgeous post Anne! I love thinking about the physics, or would it be the chemistry, of keepers. Especially those that wear better and better.

And isn't my CB just a gem in that film? Sooooo brilliant!!!! And the story, and cinematography, and acting. Wonderful stuff. You've made me want to watch it again ;).

11 March, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Ally, I thought you'd get here! Good to see you. Yes, CB was fantastic. He's been fantastic in everything I've had the pleasure of watching him in (he's definitely given Batman a new lease on life).

It is interesting about "keepers" and what they give us by their sheer familiarity. I think you're right -- it is almost a chemical thing. Keepers as chocolate, perhaps?

12 March, 2007  

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