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Gary Percesepe

An Invitation to the Ball

Maybe itís the refrigerated, chemically washed air at the theater. Sometimes it is the sudden quality of the light, something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, or the mystery of skin. It could be the weather up there on the screen, or maybe itís the sound track. It can depend on whom you are with, and sometimes it doesnít happen at all. But at the movies, if youíre lucky, something happens.

As Sidney Lumet points out in his book, Making Movies, some movies tell a story and leave you with a feeling. Some tell a story and leave you with a feeling and give you an idea. Some tell a story, leave you with a feeling, give you an idea, and reveal something about yourself and others.

The best movies invite you directly in, so that you become the characters on the screen; your unlived life beckons. Slowly you come to understand that this is your story, that the movie has somehow selected you, picked you out and called to you, offering itself as host. You begin to sense that your own life is available to you in new ways, both as a task and a gift.

Making a movie is a way of telling a story. Stories have been told by humans since the beginning, of course, but not until the twentieth century did we know a way to tell a story quite so powerfully as this. Had we the technology in the sixteenth century, would novels have ever been written? Or would stories have been slapped right up there on makeshift screens by ambitious screenwriters. (It is fun to imagine writers as different as Cervantes and Shakespeare, Baudelaire and Moliere, Dostoevsky and Dickens, writing screenplay; who can doubt that they would have been good at it?) To those who question which form is more powerful, the book or the movie, I would simply offer my own observation: I have often put down a novel, a poem, an essay, or a short story, but it is nearly impossible for me to stop watching a movie. (Well, okay, I did recently walk out of Vanilla Sky when I witnessed something I never thought Iíd see: Tom Cruise even worse than I thought he could be, so bad he even made Cameron Diaz look bad, something I had thought to be impossible.)

So we rang the bell for some good writing about the movies and about a hundred writers answered the call. They sent me their poems, their stories, their essays, their reviews, their lives--remembrances of time spent at the movies with ones dear to them, young and old, some now departed. I felt oddly blessed/blissed. They championed their favorite films, they came to praise and to bury, they rated directors, they even created a film and gave it a fictive world, complete with reviews. They offered free tips, planned their own cinematic midlife crises, and divulged how they lost it at the movies. (At times, things did get intimate.)

So pop yourself some corn and settle in. Curtain rising.

Gary Percesepe is the nom de flambe of a highly placed greenlighter in Hollywood, California, USA.

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