Friday, August 26, 2011

The Fisher King



I've always loved "The Fisher King," ever since seeing it at the theater when it came out in '91. (From '82 to the early 2000s, I used to go to the movies constantly. Most notably from my late high school years in the early '80s through the mid-'90s -- in '94 - '95 I was in San Francisco for grad school and one of my two part-time jobs while there was as a popcorn girl for the Alexandria Theater in the Richmond District, just a couple of blocks down the street from my apartment. People who worked there got free passes to most movie theaters all over town, so I saw just about everything during that period, including things I wouldn't normally see... like "How to Make an American Quilt"!)

I'm guessing that I sought out "Fisher King" at the time partially 'cause of good reviews and mainly because I'd been such a huge fan of director Terry Gilliam's earlier ('85) "Brazil" (though I hated his '88 "Baron Munchausen"). To me, "Brazil" and "Fisher King" are both profound --- engaging on every level. I guess the trope for "completeness" is: heart, mind, body, soul. Don't know about the "body" in these two cases, but my mind, heart, and soul were certainly all engaged. Just plain good storytelling at the core (maybe that's "the body" enacted; but probably "the heart" --- hey, "core"'s etymology is from the French word for "heart"! -- just looked that up!). But then Gilliam's capable of expanding that basis into the spiritual... in "Brazil"'s case, the search for "Truth"; in "Fisher King," the search for "Mercy" and "Redemption." And not only THAT, but Gilliam's also capable of extending his basic ideas into the most wild, complex visual and imaginative odysseys that almost seem to exist apart from the main plots, only... they don't. Everything's tied together via his vast, complicated imagination AND his down-to-earth technical skills. Just mind-blowing to me what he was capable of in those two movies. Aside from the visuals, stories with an extremely dark, deep sense of tragedy, but that also allowed you to laugh at the utter ludicrousness of life. AND keep a sense of hope. These movies remind me of Klimt's paintings in their utter sensuality and utter cold, hard plumbing of psychological depths.

"Fisher King": I was 26-ish when I first saw it. Was kind of sloughing about, working at a low-paying library job, having not yet decided to finally finish up my BA. My first lover had just broken up with me, so I was love-lorn and miserable. But I hadn't actually experienced TRAGEDY. As a child, my dad had been abusive, but no one had DIED or anything... just been vastly humiliated. And I'd had to cope for the prior 10 years with, first, not being out of the closet and, then, when I finally did come out in '89 (at age 23), my "first girlfriend" who was a bit too experienced --- not only was she a professional dominatrix (I later discovered), but she also slept around on me constantly while blaming MY jealousy for her creepy longtime pattern of behavior. Again, not TRAGIC. Just vastly humiliating.

That was the frame of mind I was in then when I saw the movie in '91. In a rut all the way around. While watching at the time, I was still more of an outside observer of life: Though especially horrified when Jeff Bridges's down-and-out onetime shock jock character dumped his old friends and girlfriend once he got another chance at the big-time. The character, Jack Lucas, had been REALLY down and out. And his new friends had been REALLY patient with him! Even I could see the pathos of his immediate rejection of them once he got another break.

Today, 20 years later, I was just thinking about Jack Lucas in the movie. Not that I'm about to break out of my own funk and leave anyone behind (ha! no real prospects and no one to leave behind!). But WOULD I act out a minor version of that behavior if I had the chance?? For instance: Once I get paid the $4000 - $6000 from my current temp job (depending on if it lasts for 4 or 6 weeks)... a crazy notion came into my head today to just take the money and RUN, RUN, RUN all the way back to Weehawken and/or NYC! Break my Austin lease, dump all my stuff (the few things left) on my mom once again, travel lighter this time (only my laptop, my boombox, a suitcase of clothes -- no having my mother mail me boxes of books and personal belongings, etc. Not that she would ever go through THAT again!)... In other words, be impatient with my minor steps so far to get re-established as a very PERSON (aka "having a place to live and having some, albeit sporadic, sources of income") and just uproot and gamble again. On the very same thing that I just got through gambling and losing on last year! Honestly, I don't think I have it in me right now, energy-wise, to do such a thing. I'm still kind of beaten up, in various ways, over "The Return" of Spring 2010!

In other "Fisher King" thoughts: Upon first viewing 20 years ago, I did identify most with Jack Lucas. But today, I see myself in all 4 of the main characters. I'm Jack Lucas, opinionated and cocky and needing to learn a REAL lesson more than once. I'm Amanda Plummer's "Lydia Sinclair" -- uber-awkward and distrustful and withdrawn. I'm Robin Williams's "Parry" -- driven semi-mad by REAL loss, but still hopeful and still trying to engage with life. I'm Mercedes Ruehl's "Anne" -- the voice of reason, I suppose, and rejected, while trying to shake/scream some sense into Jack AND simultaneously run her video store! :)

A final "Fisher King" note: I own the DVD and had left it, among many other of my DVDs, for my mom to keep at her house while I went off to NYC in 2007. When I returned in 2010 and was staying with her for a couple of months, we watched it together. The first 20 minutes or so of the movie were too phantasmagorical (aka, "loud and obnoxious") for her:

"Is it going to be like this the whole time?"
"No, Mom. No. Just watch."

At the end of watching it together, she said: "Those people were weird." That's all she had to say about it.

The Fisher King on Wikipedia.

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