Sunday, July 23, 2017

John Heard | Lefsetz Letter

People have got to stop dying.

I know, I know, it’s the way of the world. But when you age, when the people you came up with start to die, it leaves you lost in a way that is not depicted in the news, it reinforces that everything is temporary, that most of the games in life are an illusion, and that all the touchstones you’ve been depending upon are nonexistent.

John Heard starred in “Chilly Scenes Of Winter,” subsequently retitled and rereleased as “Head Over Heels.” It was the film depiction of an Ann Beattie book, back when she was a cult hero, before everybody became a cult hero, when books still mattered, especially if they captured the zeitgeist, which in this case is the ennui of twentysomethings.

Which doesn’t exist anymore.

Used to be the twenties were not go-go. Most didn’t go to graduate school. They were not working their way up the ladder of the corporation. They were not worried about falling behind.

They were just trying to find themselves.

I know, I know, it became a cultural joke, but who are you, really? Are you the job or the title or..? And are you on the right path in life? Today everybody’s so desperately worried that they’re falling behind that they cannot get ahead, at least personally, they’re stunted, they’re wearing blinders.

And the truth is I’ve neither read nor seen “Chilly Scenes Of Winter” since the seventies. My memory may be screwed up. But I remember one of the two being set in Salt Lake City and the tenseness of connection and on again and off again relationships and my girlfriend turned me on to the book and I hold the memory dear and have followed John Heard ever since.

This was back when movies were still a passion. The essence of American culture. “Jaws” and “Star Wars” were seen as anomalies, not the way forward. Flicks would play for months. They opened in New York and L.A. and you’d line up on Friday night and come out after like you’d been to a rock concert, having had an experience. And the actors were rock stars. You followed their careers. You looked out after them. There was a clear dividing line between movies and television and there were not twenty new flicks every weekend and you could be a student, a connoisseur, you could get a handle on what was going on, know the players, and invest in their careers.

And it’s weird that the players are getting older.

But it’s even weirder that there are new players, whose names we do not know and ultimately do not care about.

So Heard was in “Cutter’s Way,” a troubled production that finally hit the screen. And the thing about Heard is you could see inside him. He too was troubled, he had a past, he wasn’t light and two-dimensional, you knew people like him.

And then he became a joke in “Home Alone” and his arc seemed to flatten, he was not on the way up anymore, and you read about his troubled personal life and he seemed to be someone you used to know, who showed up now and again, like on “The Sopranos,” old and fat, everybody ages, or dies, when we want them fixed in our mind. Kinda like an old girl or boyfriend. You expect them to look just like they did when you were involved with them. And then you run into them and you can see the years in their face, the time in their body, they’re experienced, beaten-down, they’re no longer in their twenties with hopes and dreams, they’re just trying to get along. They’re still the same person, it’s just that…

You cannot go home anymore.

And then you find out home doesn’t even exist. Not only did your mother sell it, the new owners repainted and added an addition and left toys in the front yard and they changed the name of your school and all you can rely on is that celluloid, when you come across the old movie on TV, or in your mind, and you’re reminded of what once was. With the road of life empty and long in front of you. When you were just coasting instead of hurtling down the highway. When you thought it would go on forever.

But it doesn’t.


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