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From the FtY Vault, Again: The Big Sleep, A Confession

July 12, 2008

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As promised yesterday, here is yet another contribution from FtY’s illustrious past for the Self Involvement Blogathon curated by the man who calls himself Culture Snob. My vault of self-involvement is deep, baby. (You can see the original, pic-less February of ’07 post, written for Jim Emerson’s now classic Contrarian Blogathon, here.)

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I hate people who talk at the movies. And I really hate people who take cell phone calls during movies — especially if they’re Larry King. On the other hand, if you hear someone snoring at that Dreyer, Bresson, or Ozu screening, it just might be me. I am a filmnambulist.

And it’s not just austere minimalists who can lull me into one of my cinematic siestas. If I’m tired enough, I can sleep through any universally acclaimed auteur. I’ve dozed through large portions of works by Kurasawa, Ford, Hawks (guess which movie), Bergman, Lang, Ophuls (both Max and Marcel), Lean, Welles, Melville, Ray (Satjayit and Nicolas!), Russ Meyers, and Edward D. Wood, Jr. I sleep through the classic and the campy alike.

I suppose this marks me as a typical ethnocentric American, but my filmnabulism appears to be more often triggered by non-English language films. Once I close my eyes, all I hear is a lot of what is, to my unilingual ears, otherworldly gibberish. Very relaxing. Quiet, yet urgently spoken, French, Japanese, Mandarin, or German is best. I once slept through the last two-thirds of Das Boot — explosions, bursting pipes, and all.

Cantonese, however makes for a fitful nap. And certain North American dialects are more difficult still. It is impossible to sleep through any movie featuring Rosie Perez in a speaking role.

So far, I have been able to manage the filmnambulist scourge through the ingestion of high amounts of caffeine and strict adherence to regime that specifies no Bergman after 10:00 p.m., no Italian neorealism post 9:00, and no Russian cinema, ever.

Now, this has a flip side, which is my well-documented status as something of a cinema chicken when it comes to gore laden horror violence on the one hand and the ever more popular comedic humiliation on the other. Lately, I’ve been trying to manage this tendency via the judicious use of those small alcoholic beverage bottles which I once thought were only available on airplanes, but which I now know can be purchased at any liquor store in Southern California.

You may call it self-medicating, but as Donald Rumsfeld reminds us, one goes to the movies with the constitution one has. Which is a long winded way of saying that I blame my parents.

My mother runs out to buy a hot-dog at the first sign of suspense. My octogenarian father, on the other hand, hasn’t stayed awake through a film since the Iran-Contra hearings — with the sole exception of Chicago.

That’s what I need: more movies with baby-faced peroxide blonds playing tap-dancing murderesses who kill without on-screen blood. I have it coming.

In any case, if you do hear me snoring behind you, my apologies. It could be worse, though.

“Hello, Nome, Alaska. I’m here with the latest masterpiece starring the great Ryan Philippe. What’s your question?”

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