Earlier this week I had a chance to see a 35 mm print of Ken Russel's controversial movie the Devils at my local independent cinema. If you who haven't heard of this mostly out of print gem here's what you need to know: its a psychedelic / psychotic parable about religious fervor set in medieval France. Its the sort of gonzo movie that starts with a lecherous priest using a stuffed alligator as a shield to protect himself against a sword-wielding aggrieved father and ends with that same priest being martyred by a venal and corrupt Church - and it has such tonal control that its evolution from titillating filth to tragedy actually works. I started out really disliking most of the main characters but by the film's climax I felt the full weight of their fates, which is a remarkable evolution, because again, stuffed alligator fight.
But I'm actually not here to talk about the Devils, because while that film was amazing it wasn't as amazing as what happened in the lobby afterwards.
You see, between going to see a wide variety of both new and old films at the Hollywood and between picking up volunteer shifts at the box office on the weekend I've spent a lot of time there a lot over the last few years And any time you spend a lot of time in one place you're destined to make some enemies...
Well, this is not really about an enemy, it's about a nemesis, which is not the same thing at all. Here's my idiosyncratic break down the difference between an archenemy and a nemesis: an archenemy is someone you don't like because they aren't sufficiently like you but a nemesis is someone you don't like because they are too much like you. So if you are kind and thoughtful you don't like your archenemy because they are pointlessly cruel; you can't stand them because they don't share your best qualities. But if you are secretly worried that you are socially awkward or uncool then you will struggle with your nemesis because they are also awkward and uncool and every time you see them they will make you feel incredibly self conscious; their main failing is that they reflect your worst qualities back at you.
As I've been going to the Hollywood these last few years I've run into my nemesis literally hundreds of times. He doesn't seem like a bad guy. In fact, he's rather nice - I know for a fact that he gets along with everyone who works there because he also volunteers there, which means we both get invited to the after-hours parties the theater throws every few months to reward its volunteers, and so I've seen him interact positively with all my movie buddy friends. And I should add that this guy also likes cool movies - I always see him at Kung Fu cinema, and at old classics, and at weirdo art movies like the Devils. We're both first class cinephiles.
But even though we should be good friends because we have so much in common he drives me up the fucking wall. And it's for very, very petty reasons.
My problem is that this guy is very thirsty. He seems sort of lonely; he always hangs around the theater a little too long trying to make small talk with the staff, and his jokes are always super-corny, and every time I catch him doing it I want to tell him: hey man, just go on home because this is sad. But the subtext of that thought is always the same: I want you to go go home because *I* want to be the guy who hangs around the theater a little too long and you're making me feel self conscious.
Anyway, I went to see The Devils with my old friend Brendan,
(...Sidenote: I just started planning for my birthday celebration this year, and that reminded me that Brendan and I met the day before my birthday eight years ago when his band semi-randomly played a show with my friend Billy's band. Being friends with someone for two consecutive Presidential terms is a pretty decent run, I think.)
(And yes, I am including that aside as a way to separate myself from my nemesis, who as I said often seems to be kind of lonely.)
Anyway, after the movie Brendan and I were chatting in the lobby (... because there's actually a lot to be said about the Devils, which as I said is a powerful and disturbing and singular movie, and I'm obviously doing a bad job of doing expressing any of that, but... enh, whatever, I'd rather talk about how:)
I saw my nemesis across the lobby bothering the people at the popcorn counter and I told Brendan that I didn't like that guy. Then Brendan sized him up, and then he said: oh yeah, that guy sucks. I think he said that partly because that was his opinion at that moment, but I think he mostly said that because he was totally willing to throw a stranger under the bus to placate me.
And at that moment I felt great. It was the closest I'd felt to my good friend in a long time and also it was a great vindication for the darkest parts of my humanity, which (of course) is the best feeling in the world. It was so nice to know that while I might be a weirdo who rolls solo to a bunch of not-that-great movies that I'm at least not that guy.
Look: I get the irony of all this. I'm well aware that it is ridiculous to feel good about this conversation given that it took place immediately after I watched a movie whose main message is that the line between good and evil is very porous, and that it is very easy to turn a good person bad just by slightly flattering their worst instincts, and that humanity is worse off when potentially righteous people let their pride lead them astray. I know you aren't supposed to leave this parable about persecution and then stand outside in the lobby and point your fingers at a rival and go fuck that guy. But I did. And I feel good about it, too.
Because fuck that guy.
Winner: Me (in more ways than one)