Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I have a fundamental attachment to this film. It's one of those that I've seen any number of times but would gladly watch again any time that I see it on or even toss in myself (VHS!) First off, I think Steve Martin is a creative genius and I have always been a fan of the work that he has created, like The Jerk and his stand-up material. I draw that line between what he's "created" (acknowledging that acting, in and of itself, is a creative effort) and what he's done to earn a paycheck, like the execrable comedies he's been making with people like Goldie Hawn and Queen Latifah. There was a self-assuredness that I heard in his stage routines that was really appealing to me when I was young and remains so. He's confident and so much so that much of his humor seems self-deprecating without being desperate. He doesn't make decisions out of lack of knowledge ("I played football in high school. I was the quarterback. I used to like to punt on first down.") He makes them because he's simply on a higher plane of understanding than everyone else ("You take geometry and geology in college and it's all numbers and you just forget it all. But you take just one semester of philosophy and it's enough to fuck you up for the rest of your life.")

While the tone of the film veers toward the sappy and it deftly avoids any deeper message than what the original story of Cyrano de Bergerac conveyed; and while none of the performances outside of Martin's (and Shelly Duvall's somewhat) are memorable; and while the story is simple... it's still appealing because the script is so brilliant and Martin's performance is so earnest that it dispenses with guile and cynicism even while his character is the most cynical person in town. He takes you past that and demonstrates a basic feeling that many of us (most assuredly me) are often loathe to admit: the desire to be wanted.

American individualism is an essential element of our modern culture. It's the dictum that encourages people to slough off any emotional pain and keep rolling along. If they can't "get over it", then there's something wrong with them. Martin's character attempts to turn that perspective on its philosophical head and declare that deep (and often tragic) feelings are what make people feel alive. I've known that from a very negative perspective for as long as I can remember. Rage drove me for many years and occasionally still does. But I'm attached to this simple little movie because it the character is "weak" and is plaintive and is lost in the search for something that he feels he can't have but which is actually searching for him.

And, of course, any film that presents both Strauss' Blue Danube and Mozart's divertimento in B flat Major is worthwhile viewing, IMO (I try to overlook the standard alto sax theme music and score that all 80s movies were contractually obligated to use):

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