' Cinema Romantico: In Memoriam

Monday, February 11, 2008

In Memoriam

It starts as a close shot of Roy Scheider's boots as he ambles down a country road in rural Maine, the camera tracking with him, and then it moves up and shows us his face. He hums to himself, carrying a rifle and a turkey wrapped in paper with a receipt attached to it. He realizes, though, he had told his family back at the house that he was going out to hunt for the Thanksgiving turkey, simply so he could get some precious time to himself. He removes the receipt. It switches to a long shot. A stark, barren mountain in the background. A tractor on the edge of the frame. He sets down the turkey. He jogs across to the other side of the road and shoots his rifle once, thus if the family checks the gun in relation to the turkey they will see he is down one shot. He jogs back to the turkey, scoops it up and continues on his way. Over the whole scene there has been a light, warm, beautiful acoustic guitar. This is a scene from one of my all-time Top 5 Favorite Movies, "The Myth of Fingerprints", and I adore it. I mean, I adore it. Everything about it. It's funny and poignant simultaneously and sums up this character in a way no long-winded speech could. It makes me smile to think about and when I watch it the smile is even bigger. He has many wonderful moments throughout the film but this is the one I cherish the most. In fact, last August I listed it as one of 30 Reasons Why I Love Movies.

It's the scene I think of in the wake of Mr. Scheider's passing yesterday at the age of 75. I know that every tribute to him will include mention of his roles in "The French Connection" and "All That Jazz" and, of course, as Police Chief Brody in "Jaws" (my favorite scene of that entire movie was always Brody's wife and Richard Dreyfuss talking at the dinner table while Scheider sits in the foreground, opens the bottle of wine, pours a glass, and has a long drink). A lot of people probably don't even "The Myth of Fingerprints" exists and that's why I feel it's important to mention it.

I don't think you make a movie like "The Myth of Fingerprints" to pull down a cheap buck. It's an ensemble cast, a first time director, not a big Hollywood studio, and you're filming in the middle of nowhere. You make a movie like that, I think, because something about the material appeals to you, or relates to you. It speaks to you in some way. And you make a movie like that in the hopes that people watching might have to speak to them in the same way. If you can touch one person the way the material touched you then it's all worth it. Isn't that the cliche?

Obviously, I never met Roy Scheider. But if I had this is what I would have wanted to say: "Mr. Scheider, that scene in 'The Myth of Fingerprints' where you're walking by yourself with the turkey, well, I can't explain it in words but that scene means the world to me. The whole wide world. Thank you."

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