Friday, March 10, 2006

60. "Like in poetry I go dot-dot-dot ..."

I can feel myself heading toward one of those headlong-rush periods in which I cannot watch enough movies. And I want It All, too: plenty of new ones that will delight and amaze, layered with plenty of old ones I want to reacquaint myself with--and acquaint my growing children, whose turn it is to tumble down the long rocky hills of cinema--or skip like smooth stones across the bright water, their progress marked by silver arcs. Depends on what's playing.

The first one up was both a tumble and a shining skip: We watched Sling Blade--1996, I surprised myself by finding out; only ten years ago. I thought it was earlier, almost a story from childhood, it sits so large and square in my head, like Karl, Billy Bob Thornton's "humped-over retard," as Doyle (Dwight Yoakam, making my jaw drop like every other actor in this movie) puts it, a kind of monument to the quiet, scary intimacy the movies can manage every once in a while, zeroing in on your heart, making you live in it, like Frank (Lucas Black, who also appears with Thornton in one of my three or four favorite sports moves, Friday Night Lights). And, as Karl tells Vaughan (John Ritter, giving us a great gift here--and, I do not forget, playing flabbergasted opposite Thornton in Bad Santa--a guilty pleasure, gawd help me), your heart's "an awful big place to live in."

Reading over the previous paragraph, I'm glad I distracted myself with blather about great performances and peripheral appearances; it keeps me from thinking much about Sling Blade itself--because the more I think about it, the more my eyes well up. Hard to type through a veil of tears--or in a vale of tears; sometimes I can't tell the difference. Sling Blade never stops wearing me down, from its wistful, Cuckoo's Nest-like opening music to the end-title song, "The Maker" ("I have seen the flaming swords / There over east of Eden / Burning in the eyes of the Maker"). And in between, moment after moment of a voice sliding like thunder, a hand unfolding with an innocent in its palm, no bigger than a squirrel. Like Karl, clutching the hammer, I cannot stop the urge toward full-immersion baptism, movie-style.

Before I do, though, I'll manage an observation or two. When Karl asks Frank's permission to put his arm around him, Thornton gives us Karl's whole life, as a son, a brother, a friend, and a father, in fifteen seconds of soft gesture. And fathers and mothers at that moment should hang their heads in shame for every short word and missed opportunity. And when he tells Frank that he likes the way he talks, too, and grins, that averted mask of a face breaking into small joy, I see for a moment an innocent who has been forced to wend his way alone, lit up by those flaming swords--but now not alone, but with the boy, hand in hand at last, like Milton's First Parents in Paradise Lost.

"Headlong rush" or not, after Sling Blade I think I need a little less gravitas and a little more levitas, or I'll be calling it a keyser blade myself. Corpse Bride, anyone?

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