When I had my holiday we went up to the White Mountains and stayed in a hotel there for a couple of days. We indulged in the usual amusements there, and hiked up a modest mountain, and went to a state park with a lake that we hadn't been to before, and for the most part everyone was satisfied. At night after the children fell asleep we drank, though not to any level approaching excess, and put on the television. We do not have cable at home, so that is a novelty for us. The first night there was program about a Mormon who had four wives and about twenty children which did not explain how he managed to afford them all, followed by one about Amish twenty-somethings let loose to party and find out important things about life in Los Angeles. I spent a lot of time glancing at brochures and those books of advertisements they have in hotel rooms in tourist areas while these were on. The second night I returned from getting ice and saw Fernando Rey on the screen, in his prime, sitting down as usual to a well-set table in a wonderfully cut suit of old European clothing in a perfectly handsome but not overstylized movie I had never seen before.
I: What is going on? I thought you hated this guy?
She replied with an enigmatic shrug.
I could not figure out what the movie was for the life of me. I knew it had to be a Bunuel movie. Convention was clearly being mocked even though everyone's clothes, drinks, manners, speech and collection of abilities were of a perfection that only the highest reaches of pre-war continental European society could attain. And then Catherine Deneuve appeared (with medium-brownish hair). It was not Belle de Jour, was it? (Not a Bunuel movie, though I could not remember at the time). But they were speaking Spanish, and to my amateur eye it looked like they were in Spain besides. Does Catherine Deneuve speak Spanish? No, her lips didn't match the words. It was dubbed. But why would the Turner Classic Movies channel be showing a movie dubbed into Spanish with English subtitles? It made no sense. But this was still during the Franco regime, and wasn't Bunuel kicked out of the country after Viridiana? But wait, Fernando Rey just insulted a priest. It's obviously a Bunuel movie. Did they film it in France, though they were speaking Spanish? Catherine Deneuve's lover is an impoverished but extraordinarily handsome artist. She falls ill and has to have her leg amputated...still nothing is telling me what movie this is. A sordid past obviously exists between her and Fernando Rey, dating back to when she was a schoolgirl. The sets and clothes and streetscapes in this movie are amazing...But where in Spain does it snow and get cold like this? In the mountains, sure, but what cities are in the mountains? I am thrown off again. Some surrealist touches, but not like his most famous movies. Catherine Deneuve marries Fernando Rey but denies him sex and affection. The movie ends with Fernando in bed, apparently dying from poison. It's "Un Film de Luis Bunuel". They still don't tell us what the movie is...
My Wife: I hope she didn't poison all those other men (who had been having dinner with Fernando Rey).
Other comments of hers included observations of the stylish clothing worn by the Spanish men, and a speculation that the amputation of Catherine Deneuve's leg was faked in the movie, though for what purpose I cannot remember. The only betrayal of her former animosity towards these principals came when during a dream sequence when a painted wooden likeness of Fernando Rey's head, detached from any body, was swinging in place of a bell, of which image she disapproved ("I know this is supposed to be funny"). On the whole though, I think she enjoyed herself.
So when we got home (no I-phone or traveling laptop for me) I quickly was able to discover that this movie was Tristana, which was made in Spain--the street scenes were shot in Toledo, which was of course the home of El Greco and as far as the tourist trade is concerned is kind of the Florence of Spain--and was released to much acclaim in 1970, the year I was born. It both seems like a 1970 movie, and at the same time it seems incredible that anything about the world was like what was in this movie at any time that I was alive. Yet Spain was deep in that time warp that the political and cultural and economic stagnation imposed by the regime had produced at the time, and Fernando Rey and especially Bunuel, along with doubtless many other people associated with the movie, were products of a very different culture and upbringing than essentially anybody who is alive and occupying any kind of prominent place in the world today has.
This is my second day in a row of putting up a hurried post. I don't think it will become a habit, but the Emerson I've been reading has for some reason made me want to get back into writing more. I still don't think he is an original or especially great writer, but his journals do give a sense of engagement that I find to be lacking in my own life. He is not brilliant, but he is observant, and he attempts to examine his views and reactions to things in an honest manner. Also of course he lives near me--his house is a little more than an hour from me--and while the towns, other than a few old landmarks, have for the most part nothing recognizable to a modern person, obviously the mountains and rivers and flowers and trees and animals that he writes about are well known to me, and this probably has had some effect on my desire to write more. Though you would not know it from this blog, there were about ten years where I wrote nearly every day for three or four hours. I may not have much to show for this effort, but I did achieve a certain fluency and sense of composition that I have, to my genuine astonishment, lost over the last six or seven years. Since I have not learned how to do anything else in the meanwhile and since the earlier practice provided me with a sense of purpose, however ridiculous it may have been, that I lack now, I think I will try to get back into some regular routine, with very rough postings for a while...