Sunday, October 21, 2007

And we'll go down to the post-mortem bar...

I recently just watched a movie that I hadn't seen in a while, and was instantly reminded why I had placed it on my list of "all-time favorite movies" a few years ago.

(That list includes such feel-good classics as It's a Wonderful Life, and chick flicks like Never Been Kissed and lots and lots of movie musicals. For a depressing movie to end up on that list, it would have to be something very, very special. (The Pianist is one of the other few downers on the list, but that one had Adrien Brody.) Darby O'Gill and the Little People rates pretty high too. Leprechauns and a very young Sean Connery singing in a forrest! )

The movie?

Longtime Companion.

This movie opens with Blondie's "The Tide is High" playing, and that is one of those songs that once it is stuck in your head, it is stuck in your head for the rest of the week and really, really annoys you and the people around you that are also now singing it to themselves because YOU were singing it to yourself. (At least, that's how I feel about it. It is in my head right now.)

The tide is high but I'm holding on
I'm gonna be your number one
I'm not the kind of girl
Who gives up just like that
Oh, no

Longtime Companion is about nine young gay men (four couples and one single guy) and the onset of the AIDS epidemic. The movie begins in July of 1981, when the guys are having the time of their lives partying on Fire Island. They hardly pay attention to the New York Times article about the mysterious new disease striking only gay men.

The film follows these men for the next nine years, only showing one day out of each year. (A brilliant storytelling move.) As the film moves on, many of the men become infected with AIDS and die.

It is both fascinating and horrifying watching the decade through the eyes of this circle of friends. With strength, and laughter, and, of course, with each other, they face this disease.

By the end of the movie, two of the remaining guys, the couple Fuzzy and Willie, and their female best friend, Lisa, wistfully walk along the beach and wonder if this nightmare will ever end. In a brief daydream sequence, their friends (and many others) run out onto the beach to greet them and embrace as the song "Post-Mortem Bar" plays. The lyrics are achingly appropriate for this film, even if this song doesn't follow you around all day like "The Tide is High." (And I believe that is a good thing!)

And we'll go down to the post-mortem bar
And catch up on the years that have passed between us
And we'll tell our stories
Do you remember when the world was just like a carnival opening up

I never thought that I would ever see the day
And I don't wanna believe it's true
You were supposed to always be there
And a part of me has died with you

Bruce Davidson was the only actor from this cast nominated for an Oscar, although I think the entire ensemble is absolutely wonderful. I think Campbell Scott is a tremendous actor, and I honestly would not expect anything less from the child of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst. (I really, really like the way he talks. I have never bought an audiobook in my life, but if Campbell Scott was doing the reading, I think I would consider it.)

Dermot Mulrouney has one of the smaller parts in the film, since his character, John, is the first to pass away, in 1982. I really wonder why he hasn't been taken more seriously as an actor over the years...he really was quite wonderful as John. John Dossett and Brent Barrett, two well-known actors in the Broadway community, are in this film as well.

The original New York Times article that the guys read from in the first sequence can be found here... It is really quite chilling to read it, and realize that nobody had any clue what was going on and how to stop it.

Of course, I can't watch this movie without thinking about how, had I been born twenty years earlier, my friends and I would have witnessed the onset of the AIDS crisis firsthand like the characters in the movie. Since our professional and social lives mostly revolve around the New York City theatre scene, the odds are, we would have watched many great friends, colleagues and favorite performers suffer from this disease. I can't help but put myself in the position of Mary Louise Parker's character Lisa, and wonder what it could have felt like to be so helpless as you just sit there and watch your friends die one-by-one.

We are incredibly lucky that we never had to face what those did at the beginning of this crisis did, and that AIDS is no longer the certain death sentence that it once was. However, I think this movie is really important to watch so we DON'T forget what it was like before our time, and to also remember that there is still no cure for this horrible disease.

At the same time, the world is never safe, and there is always another tragedy waiting around the corner. I remember when Hurricane Katrina hit two years ago, one of my friends was wondering out loud if "something like that" could ever happen here, to us. Probably not...but we have airplanes flying into buildings and killing people. Point is, we are never really safe and definitely not indestructable.

Excellent time it's on Bravo, give it a shot.

Diana Rissetto