' ' Cinema Romantico: A Blogger Looks at 40

Friday, September 01, 2017

A Blogger Looks at 40

“A Quiet Passion”, a biopic, in a sense, of Emily Dickinson, is nothing if not obsessed with time, where it goes and what it does and what it means, like an early scene of young Emily at home where the camera finds her in repose before circling the room to observe the rest of her family at leisure with nothing on the soundtrack aside from a ticking clock burrowing into Emily’s brain which is why when the camera re-finds her she is trembling as if unable to come to terms with how quickly a life of this – for beautiful, for boring – can go. Oh, Lord. That’s why the most astounding shot in the film is director Terrence Davies brilliant deploying of the famous Dickinson daguerreotype, using it as a means to segue from Young Emily to Old Emily (Emma Bell to Cynthia Nixon), so that in the space of a single exposure, myriad years are just…gone.


I’m turning 40 this weekend. As you might suspect, I required an official Turning 40 Anthem, which I had initially established as the late Audrey Auld Mezera’s “Forty”, in which she bemoans more than boasts “I’m halfway home.” But the universe, as it will, intervened and recast my official Turning 40 Anthem as SoCo siren Lana Del Rey’s “Young.” Wait. Did I say “Young”? I mean, “Love.” Her song is called “Love.” I keep thinking it’s “Young” because that word is just as prominent in the chorus. “Because it’s enough to be young and in love.”

“Love” is the sort of song about Youth that could only be sung by someone Old. Lana Del Rey isn’t really, old of course, merely 32, not that someone who is 32 can’t feel old, which is a sentiment no one Old should object to, but her aura often evinces agelessness anyway, an all-seeing narrator, and in “Love” she is assuming the perspective of someone who was once young and has now lived long enough to grapple with and put into context what being young means, which is what you never understand when you are young and which is exactly what “Love” understands too.

Look at you kids with your vintage music
Coming through satellites while cruisin’
You’re part of the past, but now you’re the future
Signals crossing can get confusing
It’s enough just to make you feel crazy, crazy, crazy

The contradictions are perfectly evocative of that youthful in-between where you are constantly being adomnished “you don’t know how good you have it” even as you’re warned about what the future you’re not really thinking about and couldn’t even begin to understand if you did, and where you wind up wasting time rather than appreciating it because there’s so much of it and you can’t grasp how fleeting it is and you don’t know enough about yourself to quite comprehend what you should be doing with what you have. All of this blossoms in the chorus.

You get ready, you get all dressed up
To go nowhere in particular
Back to work or the coffee shop
Doesn’t matter cuz it’s enough
To be young and in love

It is enough, of course. But you don’t know that, not then, not when you’re young, only from the distance where Lana is, watching, smiling, but letting that smile drip with some Del Rey-ish wickedness as the song’s bridge evinces when she coos “Don’t worry baby.” That was the title to a deceptively melancholic Beach Boys tune, where a woman tells her street-racing boyfriend not to worry, everything will turn out alright, a paean to the false invincibility of youth, which is why Lana singing it from her perspective makes it so damn diabolical. You can almost hear her laughing. Don’t worry baby, life’s gonna get ya.

That alone would make for a killer pop tune, albeit a cruel, nasty one, but Lana, in the masterstroke, in the thing that makes it my official Turning 40 Anthem, turns the whole enterprise into a terrifying reflection. Because post-bridge she flip’s the song’s point of view, no longer singing about them and singing about herself.

It’s enough just to make me go crazy, crazy, crazy

And then...she does.

I get ready, I get all dressed up
To go nowhere in particular
It doesn’t matter if I’m not enough
For the future or the things to come
Because I’m young and in love

It’s incredible; it’s beautiful; it’s soul-crushing; it’s Lana Del Rey as a present-day Ponce de Leon, so desperate for eternal youth that she willingly succumbs to the delusion. And her concluding re-cooing of “Don’t worry baby” is the punchline to a joke that is on her.


In September 2008, as I stood in the lobby of my office building, as indifferent business types scurried about all around me, watching on a big screen TV as Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt readied to run a 100 meters in Brussels, it felt like anything was possible. After all, just a few weeks earlier he’d earned the Gold Medal in the same event at the Beijing Olympics by clocking a world record 9.69 that was so easy he erupted into a touchdown dance twenty feet ahead of the actual end zone. Choosing to celebrate as opposed to truly running through the finish inevitably left the boring media shock jocks to intone about showing the track gods disrespect, but while his stopping short and still winning might have been tactically questionable it was nevertheless cosmically correct, eliciting a monumental What IF? What if he had run the full 100? Ask anyone who witnessed his Beijing race and they will tell you he could have achieved 1.21 gigawatts. That What If? jubilantly rattled around in my mind as he toed the line in Brussels. He only managed a 9.77, in really bad weather, mind you, and the fact that I’m saying “only” indicates just how far the track axis had been titled out of whack by the astoundingly aptly named Bolt. And when that 100m ended, I wasn’t disappointed because I was already thinking about next time. The future is always alive when anything is possible.

Rather than speeding up as they approach the finish line, as any track & field commentator will tell you, sprinters slow down. The question becomes: who can hold his/her top speed the longest? And really, ever since the late aughts, Bolt was slowing down, even as he maintained his top speed longer than every competitor around him. Anything, frankly, stopped being possible a few years ago, no matter how much I tried to wish that away every time he took the track, and when he finally lost a 100 meters earlier in August at the World Championships in London it was less WTF? than a bad premonition coming true. Romantically, foolishly, I nevertheless couldn’t help but think of the 4x100 race a week later, an event in which Bolt, freed from the cumbrous starting blocks he was not born for, could simply take the baton and fly. Give me the choice between a Total Solar Eclipse or one more Peak Bolt Anchor Leg and you know what I’m choosing for the latter is no less a glorious gift from the heavens.

I DVRd the event and, upon returning home, fast-forwarded through, arriving at the start of the 4x100 only to realize the recording cut off because the meet ran long. I got angrier than I should have, but still. I found a replay on the Internet, sure, but to find one was to simultaneously learn the result – that is, Usain Bolt didn’t even finish. He took the baton, pulled a hamstring, pulled up, and fell to the track. His career was over.

That’s how fast it goes. I had felt like it was just September 2008, I really did, still in the glow of Chapter 1 with so many more Chapters go, and then, without even getting to live through the end, it ended, with a terrible whimper. That I wasn’t able to watch wound up being just right, pining for one more chance to see him and not getting it, left merely to confront the truth that everything Usain Bolt did was now officially the past.


Nikhat said...

I love this. I was going to write a post on turning 25 but that was just going to be "uhhh wut how did I get here?" But your post is wonderful. I don't know what else to say. Have an awesome birthday :)

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you, and I think you should write it! I'd love to read it! I'd love to compare a 40th post to a 25th post. It would add more perspective to each one, I think.

s. said...

Happy upcoming birthday! This is a great post, I especially loved the part about Lana's song. She doesn't get enough credit for her amazing lyrics