Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The People Next to Me and Anton Corbijn's Control

One of the most beautiful things about living in a place like NYC is people watching. To top it all off, I recently got my first, very own iPod shuffle (right here at the ripe age of 32), which makes the people-watching that much more dramatic and cinematic.

Last night, I went to see Anton Corbijn's Control, a biopic about the late Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

But first, let me tell you about the subway ride there:

Sitting next to me was a young couple speaking in sign language. They were in their own world completely, laughing (silently, it all seemed), and totally unaware of all the wandering, curious, fascinated eyes and slight smiles stealing glimpses of their silent love affair. At some point, they stopped signing and started examining each others' hands - something lovers do, but these were hands they obviously already knew, hands that spoke to them, that held the key to everything between them in a way far more fundamental than in the beauty of their lines and muscles. They then started playing with each others' hands. First, slow, soft movements, then jokes -playful twists and turns of the wrists. He was speaking, she was squeezing to make him be quiet. Their fingers wrestled and tugged in this alien, communicative, sensual experience that they were both clearly completely lost in. Every single person on the bench opposite them was enraptured. An old, hippie couple - clothed in grey hair and glasses - riveted, eyes pointed over the newspapers that opened against their chests. A man with a bible - letting his eyes pass equally back and forth between the bible and the couple without noticeable preference for one or the other (he could have been a minister marrying them in this silent, emotional film). Another woman, piles of bags beside her, hid nothing in her expression as she watched the two - without reserve, unembarrassed to stare, and staring hard, like the intensity of a keen television watcher. And then me, beside them, watching them as intensely as all the others, but through the reflection on the window opposite. I had the special vantage point of seeing the watchers and the watched at the same time, and then the melodic filter of the music playing through my headphones to keep me at a safe, disconnected, anonymous distance. I stole occassional glances to my right to see them in color. In the window reflection, everything lacks bright tones.

I landed, several stops from the theatre, and much too early. I was in the West Village, so I decided to check it out. I thought of Berlinbound, and how he and HH must know those streets so well. I wished I had him as a guide as I walked in circles without a map through the cozy, criss-crossed streets.

I got to the cinema two minutes before the film started and had to take the LAST seat available in the second row next to a 60-something gentleman who was very well-dressed (business man style) and was hushing the chatty people behind us even while just the movie previews were playing. Being so packed into a theatre in seats so small, it is hard not to be aware of the strangers sitting on either side of you in a sort of forced intimacy. You can smell them. You can hear them breathing when the loud surround-sound pauses. This man was breathing so quickly, that I was worried he was going to die on me. The movie began, and throughout the film, he was reacting quickly in these funny laughs that made me think again and again that he was actually one of the people depicted in the film, or else used to have some close relationship to Joy Division. I even caught him feigning chords with his left hand during the performance scenes. Anyways, I thought about striking up a conversation with him afterwards to get the real scoop on Joy Division, but instead, just watched him swagger in this akward, jerky, mechanical way (much like Ian Curtis on stage) into the night, his suit pants actually hemmed about a half a foot higher than normal.

So I get back onto the subway, super late. I sit down, and again, there is a couple next to me using sign language. This time, they were older, more settled and mature. They weren't sitting together, but directly across from one another. They, like the couple earlier, communicated in a world that didn't seem to associate with the rest of the people around them, in that there were no voices to engage.

This is not to include all of the other people I "interacted" with over the course of the evening....people I asked directions from, people I made eye contact with, the waitress with the English accent and big glasses in the West Village. The personalities that come through in these small moments are so full, so expressive, so unguarded in a quick moving city way where people seem to be surrounded by walls, but when interacted with, are very quick to let them all down as though they are starving for human contact.

As for the film, it was beautiful. Well, to be honest, it was one of the most depressing films I have ever seen....but I appreciated the long, quiet spaces which say more than words...something one doesn't see in films or real life much anymore.

Good night and good lovin',
Love Mama Jens


Blogger Berlinbound said...

I was in the city last week, alas I had no time to do anything but the work at hand. It was good to be back among the many but I must say, I was ready to be "home" again in Cologne. ... Sorry to have missed you and the next time HH and I have a little time to spare, we'll give you that guided tour of the West Village.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Hope you had a great first thanksgiving in New York. Looking forward to your next post ...

6:27 AM  
Blogger Berlinbound said...

Three comments I've left here ... I promise I'm not a blog-stalker! But I have tagged you so get on over to my blog for the details.

I hope all is well ...


5:36 AM  

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