' ' Cinema Romantico: Walking Through Doors

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Walking Through Doors

This past Sunday I was fortunate enough to attend the premiere of Steppenwolf Theatre’s “The Doppelgänger”, which is this improbable blend of broad farce and cutting geopolitical commentary that actually comes off. Because we were standby, however, there was fear before sitting down that our seats would be saddled with obstructed views, meaning we might not be able to see some action in the wings, including going in and out of doors. If that sounds menial, well, in a broad farce, going in and out of doors is often everything. In fact, going in and out of doors is so often more than just going in and out of doors, particularly at the movies.

Doors, of course, easily lend themselves to metaphors. Entire academic papers have been devoted to the meaning of doors in “The Godfather” and “The Searchers.” Doors frequently become obvious entry points to a new world – like “The Wizard of Oz” – or exit points from an old world – like “The Truman Show.” In last year’s masterful “The Lost City of Z”, the door at the end through which Sienna Miller’s Nina Fawcett exits suggests a character not so much entering a new world or exiting an old one as vanishing into some ineffable dimension in-between. Then there is “Ghostbusters”, where the door motif is conspicuously present throughout, brought home by Egan (Harold Ramis) in the rollicking prison cell exposition scene when he declares: “Something terrible is about to enter our world and this building is obviously the door.”

In “Pulp Fiction”, however, when Uma Thurman’s Mia Wallace walked through the bathroom door at Jack Rabbit Slim’s there wasn’t anything mystical waiting, just some, uh, adult powder. And yet it isn’t about what’s on the other side of the door or what going through the door means; it’s about how Thurman goes through the door. She goes through the door with the air of a cocksure gunslinger in the wild, wild west re-imagined as a cosmopolitan in reverie. She goes through the door like James Brown shrieks as “(I Got You) I Feel Good” begins.

“Pulp Fiction” was formative for this central Iowa teenager just starting to really get into film, but much of that influence correlated directly to its form. There was something else, though, that formed me. Last year when considering whether or not Chris Pratt is a movie star (he isn’t) I cited an old Tommy Craggs quote in which he lamented how film critics rarely ever anymore simply describe how actors move across the screen. And that’s a shame because the way actors move across the screen is as vital as the way they speak, react, or pretend to jump out of airplanes. And even as someone who used to mimic Errol Flynn’s movement during his initial escape from Nottingham Castle in “Adventures of Robin Hood” when I was kid, the paramount importance of physical movement in movie performances had never really occurred to me until I saw Uma, awesome, awesome Uma, walk through that door. So I guess, in a way, the mere physical act of her going through that door really was an entry point to a whole new world.

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