Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sad Movies Always Make Me...

Because that 2Pac shit can’t work anymore. Biggie endures…but…

When you can’t sleep like I can’t when she is not around or the great guilt of what you have not done and you know you should have done weighs down on you, you watch movies. And sometimes those movies have moments that you know will last you a lifetime. Yes, it’s true. Movies can change your life. They have changed my life many times.

I’m intrigued and fascinated by 1960s Italian movie makers because a movie made by an Italian movie maker titled Arturo changed my life. Arturo was directed by and it was seemed like yet another coming of age movie except it was not for me. It was my coming of age movie.

I first watched Arturo on a black and white TV, the first TV my father owned when he was a bachelor and the movie he probably wowed my mother on when he used to convince her to go back to his apartment with him. It was a TV he held onto through all the bad times our family ever went through and even when we had to leave one of our homes precipitously, men after my father’s life, he had insisted we take that TV with us somehow. I’m telling you the story of my life.

I first watched Arturo on that black and white TV, perhaps a 15 year old boy, simultaneously in rebellion and conformity, through one late school night. I had piled my bed sheets on the space between the door and the floor so that anyone outside the room might not see the glare the TV gave off as they wandered the house in the night from the bathroom in the corridor as I watched this late night movie on TNT classics, when some Ugandan TV channel had brought TNT classic movies for us.

I had turned down the volume as much as I could. I was on my knees most of the movie, leaning forward to hear and see more clearly because my eye sight was no longer that good. My knees were numb by the end of the movie but I did not notice until I had to get up when Arturo was over, threw off the blanket I had wrapped around myself to my ears and wanted to get into my bed. None of it mattered because in watching Arturo, my life changed forever.

In Arturo he showed me that I was not alone. In Arturo he showed me that wanting to leave behind certain people and emotions that verbally reminded me all the time how much I owed them for the person I was becoming was not something I should feel guilty about. He through Arturo proved to me beyond my own hazy thoughts that loving women was not something wrong, did not make me less of a man, I should be ashamed of finding much rest lying in the loving arms of a woman, wanting not just one woman, but women in my life all my life. In falling in love with his nubile fertile stepmother and making love to her, Arturo showed me as I already knew that while women might not be my ultimate salvation, might not understand my questing, might betray me sometime, they could also save me as much.

Watching Arturo, a 15 year old boy, home from school because my school fees were not yet fully paid; home because I had omitted to mention to my parents that because of how much they had paid of my school fees I could really remain in school until they completed the minimal percentage left; home because I hated school as much as I always hated it and could not stand it but even more could not bear the look in my parents’ face telling them this so I kept on creating scenarios that excuse me: Arturo began to show me that the greatest education is the education of the heart. Arturo leaving the stepmother he loved, leaving the father whose love he most craved, the island which was his true home for a world instinct and intuition foretold could not compare in riches with what he already possessed: was the first evidence I desperately needed that I could be right without being able to prove why I knew I was right and it was okay.

Watching Arturo was like the early dawn when I first met Larkin. Red Aubade in a St. Paul published book in crisis and knew reading those lines…I must never again deny who I was. Watching Arturo was like that evening when face pressed close to a face full of fear my fist was bunched into destruction mode against a person I never thought I would ever hurt and I knew if that person had pushed me further I would have hurt them because in those moments they were threatening a part of me that is essentially me and shocked as the memory still leaves me, I would have smashed my fist in their face. Watching Arturo was an altar moment. Watching Arturo was a consecration. On that black and white TV that my father finally sold, sold and sold a part of himself he has never been able to recover. Sold and sold so we could live and I was the only one in whose eyes he saw I knew.

Watching Arturo return, watching Arturo reclaim the watch his father used to be so proud of, I saw my life. I still see my life in that movie, Arturo. Well, not many people have heard of that movie Arturo but that movie has been with me everyday of my life since I was a 15 year old boy, watching it on a Panasonic black and white TV, alone in the night passing midnight, my father wandering the corridor pretending he could not see the TV light glare flickering under the door of my bedroom through my piled bed sheets on the floor so I could watch until my mother woke up too to susu, as she would, 20 minutes after he had woken up. The 20 minutes my father won for me that day would be sufficient for me to watch that night Arturo to its end.

I watched and I have watched many Italian movies since Arturo since. Just like I have loved and experienced many things and people since the first times of every experience in my life. From Sophia Loren to Mastronellli I have had my fill, gorged my appetites. But I have never again watched another movie like Arturo that was about me. Not exactly. They say that there is always the day that is the beginning of the rest of your life. They are not lying. Arturo was the beginning of the first day of the rest of my life. It still is.