Trees Lounge‘s subtle performances (mostly Steve Buscemi’s) drive home the decay and mundanity of the emptiness of so much human existence. I have felt just like that in the past and I do not miss it. I also partly did not wish to be reminded of it, but I’m glad the film was made and that I saw it. In that case a happy ending would have been a cop-out, though there’s been a bit of one for me in real life. It is, however, not over, which is what a happy ending implies.
I tried that balance in “It Adds Up,” a play I wrote and directed last year, after my actors/co-collaborators rightly disagreed with my initial ending. The spiral: happy penultimate scenes with some resolution of the conflict(s), followed by a return to life-as-usual, slightly-changed. This is how I see life, my life. This is how I wish to reflect life in my slice-of-life stories.
The Three Faces Of Eve had a different effect. A very extraordinary story, one to which I could not relate, and yet I was held in rapture. In this case it was the stunning and stellar, and not at all subtle performance of Joanne Woodward. And in a time when film acting was arguably still in its adolescence as an art. She was flawlessly convincing, forcing me to not look away, forcing my eyes to not blink. She deserved that Academy Award, in fact I would consider that to be one of the best performances I have ever seen, anywhere. Her malleability, her grace in change, her presence… unspeakably gorgeous. Exactly 50 years since this film was made, and it can only continue to affect people the way it has me. That is the test of a story’s timelessness: its presentation. Context is easy; we can all learn a history. There are things that transcend context, however—barriers and boundaries stripped away, such identifications with time irrelevant. Cultures can shift but emotion stays, and communicated like this, can make any story your own—not the facts, the narrative, but the gut-wrenching, heart-soaring emotion of it, which can only be described with cliches, becomes yours, and belongs to you as if it originated there.