' Cinema Romantico: The Secret To The Universe (Ferris Bueller Knows)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Secret To The Universe (Ferris Bueller Knows)

What is most astonishing is that despite having seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" for the first time as a wee lad at the Valley 3 in West Des Moines twenty-five years ago, it has taken me this long to realize which character is most symbolic of John Hughes' day in the life classic. It's not Cameron Fry or Sloane Peterson or Edward R. Rooney (Dean of Students) or Jeanie Bueller or even, stunningly, the title character himself. No, no, no, no, no. It's the Parking Garage Attendant.


You remember the Parking Garage Attendant (Richard Edson). Ferris and Sloane and Cameron, upon having gone through the whole rigmarole of ditching school, find themselves at a downtown Chicago parking garage in Cameron's cold, cruel father's 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California. "One hundred and twenty-six and somewhere between three and four tenth" miles. A car Cameron's father "loves...more than life." It needs to be protected properly or, of course, Cameron will feel the wrath. Ferris spots the Parking Garage Attendant, slips him a "finski" and requests he take "extra special care of this vehicle." The Parking Garage Attendant obliges. Cameron does not and kind of blocks the Attendant's entrance into the vehicle at which point the Parking Garage Attendant says the most important line in the film.

"Relax." (Edson then offers a facial expression that has left me riotous with laughter every single time I have witnessed it in the last twenty-five years.) And from there, as we all know, rather than find it a nice, safe space, the Parking Garage Attendant and his pal (Larry Flash Jenkins), who hops aboard seconds later in the background, partake in their own mostly unseen day off, touring the sites of the Windy City at high, jubilent speed. In but a single moment the Parking Garage Attendant has boiled it all down to the most vital basics. Dude, don't let The Man get you down. Relax. It's called The Moment. Find it. Live it. Appreciate it. (Watch the scene if you would like.)

I cannot tell a lie. Strictly work-wise, the past couple weeks have been rough and draining, especially when considering one of my most consistent and sought after goals in this world is not to let my job - however well my employers at any given time may treat me - consume my life. Well, my life was consumed. After working both Saturday and Sunday my friend Daryl noticed my arduous discontent, quickly and gentlemanly offered me the delicious remnants of his 12 year Glenfiddich, though before indulging in them I went for a run that only worked to sour my mood more because I pushed myself too hard and aggravated the ol' standing-in-one-place-for-five-hours-at-Lollapalooza-to-see-Lady-Gaga injury. Losing patience and hope fast, I collapsed before my DVD shelf and decided to let my hand go to whichever DVD it knew I needed. It took but a few seconds. 

It does not cease to amaze how so much of what you watch and love as a kid, from TV ("ALF") to cartoons ("Transformers") to movies ("Conan the Destroyer"), you watch as an adult and immediately want to place a call to your parents to apologize profusely for hours and hours for ever having forced them to sit through such excruciating schlock. Yet..."Ferris Bueller's Day Off" never worsens and it never dates. It somehow grows stronger. It is decidedly set smack dab in the middle of The 80's but it remains timeless. How?


The main characters are kids, sure, but more than that they are young adults. They don't overly address their soon-to-come issues all that often because the film, in a way, is a defiant poem to the heavyosity (coinage: Woody Allen) of real life, a fact which certainly left some critics cold. Christina Lee wrote of its "insatiable appetite for immediate gratification - of living in and for the moment." But, Ms. Lee, if we're not allowed to live in and for the moment then, fuck, hasn't the planet Earth already lost? I bite my thumb at you, ma'am.

My office rests in the same business district as Ferris's dad's office. I often think of this as bittersweet irony. Leaving the office and walking to the train in the ghost town of the South Loop on a Sunday is not just a sobering situation but one that can invite anger, especially when your train is coming and the trains on weekends are ten minutes apart and these tourists on the escalator are just standing there, oblivious to the fact that I just want to hurry past them and get to the turnstile! Move, people! MOVE!!! But they don't and I miss my train and I'm going to have go through this all again the next day and the next day and the next day and-

"Relax." This is a movie about young adults reminding adults that sometimes, hey, that's what you gotta do. The baseball gods invented day baseball at Wrigley Field so adults could take the day off and soak in the sun and drink beer and be surrounded by the grace of so many lovely women. The Art Institute is on Michigan Avenue so you can go down there for an entire afternoon with friends and eventually, unconsciously get separated from your friends as you get hopelessly, beautifully lost in your thoughts as you breathe in painting after painting. There are so many songs you love so that when you hear them, anytime, anywhere, you can bust a move.


No doubt you also remember the climactic "Twist and Shout" sequence set during the parade with Ferris on the float lip syncing to Lennon and the crowd going bananas and then there is the shot of Ferris's dad way up there on who-knows-what floor in his office and he hears the commotion below and rises from his desk and walks to the window and you think, "Oh no! Will he spot his son and end the ruse?!" Or maybe you think, "Will he shake his head, upset this big to-do is interfering with his ability to no doubt process and file a few reports?" Instead the movie cuts to the float and then back to Ferris's dad, in a moment that is oh so brief but oh so crucial, shimmying.

When the day comes that a rough eight or ninety-two hours on the job prevents me from shimmying to a song I love is the day I will know The Man has truly gotten me down. Which is to say, not yet.

4 comments:

Jacob said...

Well said.

Nicholas Prigge said...

Thank you, sir. This post was sort of important to me. A sanity saver, if you will.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I love how you write a post that's so much more about life than movies but one which still depends on the movies.

Goes to show how important movies are.

Nicholas Prigge said...

I like to think that's partly why Cinema Romantico is in existence - to remind that the movies are important.