I’ve been sitting on this opening post for at least a week, thinking, “How do I begin my Milwaukee Film Festival blog?” I’m a visual person—someone who feels stuck with words to do the descriptive work when photos aren’t available. Don’t get me wrong: I love a well-written sentence. My copy of The Awakening is riddled with leaden highlights, and I can tell you that my favorite line from The Sun Also Rises is, “I’m thirty-four, you know. I’m not going to be one of these bitches that ruins children”—not that this line makes much sense out of context. But every once in awhile inspiration hits, and tonight while looking through a Facebook photo album from a year ago, I felt inspired to start writing. Still, let me start with an image.
I’m in the bathroom, creating a scene with my friend Adrian Palomo, a photographer and Milwaukee Magazine employee. We have free giveaway props that we’ve cleverly lifted, and we’re feeling inspired.
Envision the cold, white, tile floor of a toilet stall. A vintage silver purse lies next to a handful of askew high-end shampoo and hairspray samples. A man’s sneaker enters the lower edge of the frame. Adrian’s caption reads: “Looks like a crime scene in here. A crime scene with shiny, luminous hair.”
Why was my friend Adrian in the bathroom with me? (It’s my purse.) Why did I steal so much shampoo? Why were we faking a noir bathroom scene? My only answer is this: We were at the film festival’s opening night party and having a really good time.
It seems part of the opening night party’s point is to get a little too drunk, hobnob with local filmmakers, make an ass of yourself in front of some marginally successful national or international star (last year it was kids — the stars of the fantastic documentary Racing Dreams), pretend you’re going to be best friends with marginally successful directors thus giving yourself a little more street cred (they’re probably hoping you’re rich and will give them money to make their next film), and leave with a new crush. It’s an opportunity to get away with things you normally don’t get away with on a Thursday night and feel more tabloid-worthy than usual. (Unless you’re Adrian. I’m pretty sure he always feels tabloid-worthy.)
The opening night party also reminds me that film is an integral part of a vibrant life. Film is so intricately connected to the joy and pain of living — the good, the bad and the ugly. Historically, it’s a way to share events we missed the first time around or to inspire us never to let certain things transpire again. Socially, it encourages action and opens our eyes to the complexities of issues without making us feel like we’re doing intellectual work. Personally, it encourages laughing too loudly, eavesdropping on couples in restaurants, listening to children perhaps especially when they seem nonsensical and crying even when inappropriate. Film motivates us to connect with one another — to want to make the world a better place whether by creating art, volunteering to walk dogs, or simply listening to a stranger’s story. Film even helps us embrace suffering and fear. (Who doesn’t love a good melodrama or horror flick?) Personally, without film, I don’t know if I could understand love. I’m not professing that I do, but film at least lets me pretend I’m in on the secret from time to time.
In brief, I’m very much looking forward to the Milwaukee Film Festival’s party Thursday, which follows their opening screening of Blue Valentine. I hear Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling might be in attendance. I’m 100 percent sure I’ll be able to make an ass of myself in front of those two. Shoot – the embarrassment is readymade with Ryan Gosling and his history of movies featuring Realdolls and a crack habit. If I’m lucky, Adrian will be there to photograph the whole thing…