Just a few minutes ago, I finished watching a French movie called Beau Travail that I’d dvr’d on Turner Classic Movies, it is a movie about, wait, never mind, there is no need for me to tell you what the movie is about, there is no reason for you to watch it. It’s boring and it’s not even long. For 90 minutes, I sat on my couch, sipping a little whiskey and eating cheese and crackers, wondering why I was watching this movie. My answer came at the end, or rather, after the end, when after the credits, TCM played a mini-documentary about the making of my favorite movie (one of my favorites, anyway) Fame.
I remember when I saw Fame for the first time. It was the summer between my 6th and 7th grade year, in the living room of my childhood home (imagine that!) and I watched it on HBO with my cousins Tracey and Stacey who were visiting from Colorado. I already loved anything theatrical (I was just coming off of that Charlie Brown high from 5th grade) and something about the movie: the songs, the dancing, the acting, hooked into something inside of me, something at my core. I remember how nervous the Montgomery character made me. Gosh, I thought, I wouldn’t want to end up like that guy!
And even though I was a land-locked Kansas boy, I dreamed that one day, I would attend the High School for the Performing Arts. Alas, that did not happen, but I did make my way to New York eventually, and from the minute I stepped off that Greyhound bus, I did feel like I’d entered a city that pulsated like the choreographed, gritty, magical, mercurial 1980 New York that Alan Parker gave me (ME!) in that movie. And if you’ve been reading this blog, even just a little, you could understand how this movie might have resonated with me through the last 35 years, through every phase of my life.
Which brings me back to tonight, those few minutes ago, when this documentary came on my television. And I loved watching these young actors, kids at the time, talk about the characters they were playing. I always think of those actors, Irene Cara, Maureen Teefy, Paul McCrane, Barry Miller and the rest, in this revered way, the way a freshman looks up to the seniors at his high school, but I was struck by the fact that these actors were probably 16 to 20 at the time, just babies. The documentary showed behind the scenes of filming many musical scenes, including Hot Lunch Jam, I Sing the Body Electric and of course, Fame, where the entire cast is dancing in the street, on car roof tops and such. Perhaps it was the whiskey, perhaps it was something purer, but I felt the need to rise up and dance along with these teenagers, my idols, as they danced through the streets of Manhattan.
Where am I going with all this? Well, I’m not completely sure. I will say that one thing I love about art, be it paintings or music or movies, is it’s propensity to incite time travel. As I watched this documentary, I was every age I’ve ever been since I first saw the movie. I was 12 and 17 and 24 and 34 and 39 and 45. And then I thought how wonderful it is that a movie or anything, really, could make this 45-year-old get up off his couch on a Tuesday night at 10 pm and dance without abandon. It makes one think that they could live forever.