' ' Cinema Romantico: Celebrating The Myth of Fingerprints Day

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celebrating The Myth of Fingerprints Day

The Saturday post-Thanksgiving was always the day my Dad would trot out the synthetic Christmas tree that stands as tall as the tannenbaum in Rockefeller Center in my over-romanticized mind and every time he did my heart would flutter and I’d think to myself “Christmas is only a few weeks away!”

Most every morning I stop at Starbucks for coffee and, as strange as this might sound, the moment every autumn when I realize they have transitioned from their standard stark white cups to their more festive red holiday cups, my heart flutters and I think to myself "'The Myth of Fingerprints' is only a few weeks away!"

At the time, of course, I had no idea what an 8 hour work day felt like but now I know that every Christmas morning in my blue house as a wee lad was as long as an 8 hour work day. My sister and I would perch on the edge of all the presents spilling out from below the tree as we waited for our Grandpa Prigge to finish his morning routine and for coffee to brew and so on and so forth. Again, I understand all of this now. As an ancient thirty-fiver, coffee is Christmas (or any) morning’s most crucial ingredient. But when you’re five you’re just hoping and praying for the coffee machine to make that gurgling noise to signal the end of the brewing process so that, for the love of St. Nicholas, you could start tearing up wrapping paper and scattering bows and ribbon across the carpet.

Of all the 8 hours of every one of the 52 weeks of my year there are none that feel longer than the 8 on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Once upon a time, when I first discovered it and swooned for it in a specific way that I have never swooned for any other movie, I watched “The Myth of Fingerprints” often. Too often, perhaps. So often that I realized in order to save the sensation of its salvation I needed to scale back those viewings. Somehow, some way I managed to accomplish this and eventually I settled on but a single viewing a year. Seeing as how it is one of those films centered around a family re-convening for Thanksgiving, I set the traditional date as the Tuesday before the fourth Thursday in November (although occasionally this is moved back to Wednesday). It has become a momentous annual event in my cinema-obsessed life. And so as the day goes, as the sun rises and sets, as I trek off to work and trek back home, my anticipation rises. My only present is a DVD and opening its case is like ripping open the one gift you’ve had your eye on since early December.

There was suspense in Christmas morning as a kid because you had asked Santa for certain presents and who knew whether or not they’d be waiting. Then you realize, Oh, Santa was in the house all along. Santa always knew what I wanted. The suspense was manufactured – or, more accurately, the suspense never really mattered. Christmas, as the years pass, isn’t about the unfamiliar but the familiar. Being home. Family. Friends. Chili. Oyster Stew. The cloth advent calendar your Grandma Prigge handmade from scratch years ago. Your mom forcing (literally) you and your sister to set up the miniature Christmas nativity and then re-arranging everything you and your sister have set up to meet her specifications. It’s a reminder. This is who you are. This is where you come from.

“The Myth of Fingerprints” is no longer about suspense. Oh, you tend to see little things and reach an even deeper, truer understanding of its themes (like last year) but the broad outline of it now is all about the familiar. Certain scenes and shots and lines have taken on that same warm familiarity as yuletide. I know they will happen. They happen. They still move me and make me smile. Many who have seen the movie see a WASP family. Fair enough. I see a Romantic and an Introvert and a Cynic and an Optimist and a Neurotic and Someone Who Doesn't Know What He Wants. I see all the pieces of myself. This is who I am. This is where I come from. (The guy who changes his name to Cezanne is totally the side of me that loves Lady Gaga.)

Christmas morning ends. It has to end. The wrapping paper and bows and ribbon strewn about the carpet are picked up and thrown away. A big bulbous blank spot now appears beneath the tree where all those boxes lay. Christmas Eve has such a beautifully eerie sensation hovering over it, particularly in the latest hours of the night, and Christmas morning has such warmth, an affability unlike any other day so much that it’s almost ineffable. And Christmas night……Christmas night is bittersweet, a sad smile, a melancholy song, even more so as an adult when you know you likely have to go home – you know, your OTHER home – the following day. And then the Christmas tree itself is taken down later on……oh, heaven help me, that’s just the worst. The room becomes big and empty, that reassuring toastiness giving way to a brisk chill.

“The Myth of Fingerprints” ends. It has to end. The music that skims over the final shot is, to me, The Saddest Music In The World. I love the movie so much. I want it to go on forever. It won’t. It can’t. It’s so bittersweet, it’s Christmas morning giving way to Christmas night giving way to January, and all in the space of a couple minutes. Every year I watch the credits the whole way through. I bid adieu. I remove the disc from the DVD player. I place it back in its case. I put it on the shelf.

Next year seems so far away.


Anonymous said...

I've never even heard of 'The Myth of Fingerprints' nor have I seen any film w/ Gwyneth's mom Blythe Danner. Your story made me curious about it now :)

Nick Prigge said...

Like I tell everyone, I doubt anyone could love it as much as me. Which isn't to too my own horn, as they say, but just to warn you that what I see may not be what you see.

But Blythe Danner is wonderful in it. Just wonderful.