November 21st, 2013

Me 2 (B&W)

As close as I can to my '91 head

1991 was my year of movie freedom. Finally past my 17th birthday, able and willing to go to R-rated films (by myself or with others) if I wanted to see them, and my first full year of having a car and the ability to use it. A magical time. In a damn good year for films, on top of all that. And I was able to start taking advantage with films like The Silence of the Lambs.

It helped that Lambs played in my area multiplex (the now-demolished one in Merrifield, Virginia near Fairfax City) for five months; it opened on Feb. 14th -- yes, on Valentine's Day, intentionally (films don't open in the U.S. on a Tuesday by accident) -- and was still there that June when I saw the film for the second time. The first time? I didn't finish it. That was April 1991, and I immediately loved the film, but then I had a reaction I'm not proud of: I got very uncomfortable at Buffalo Bill dancing. If you've seen the film, you know the scene. Me, someone relatively sheltered about issues of people who are transgendered* -- and yes, I know Buffalo Bill is not a truly transgendered character -- had trouble with the image, to the point of feeling queasy. I left the screening room for about a minute, went back in, decided I wasn't up for watching the rest, and left. Maybe if I'd lasted a minute or two longer that day, I would've gotten to the moment of Bill opening the door to let in Clarice Starling, and that surprise-suspense moment may have been enough to make me stay and see what happened. I saw that in June, when I finally went to the film again, and finally had the full experience.

Also, me being me, I stopped on the way home that April night and bought a CD of the score by Howard Shore. I swung up to Reston, bought it at the Kemp Mill Records in southeast Reston, and took it home.

That was a huge part of my soundtrack in 1991. It mingled with WAVA's Top 40 music** and the early stages of my film-score collection: lots of John Williams and Danny Elfman, Dances With Wolves, the tape of Basil Poledouris's The Hunt For Red October, and oddities I'd fallen in love with like Michael Kamen's score to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and some thundering Bernard Herrmann compilations.

I appreciated the Lambs score's mood: its almost-floating sense of dread and judicious moments of being overwhelming (taking Lecter to Memphis, Lecter's escape) while remaining beautiful and humane in the midst of that, as the film en toto does***. I really hadn't heard music quite like it -- though I was canny enough to notice an accidental similarity between Shore's main theme for the film and a theme Elfman used in Batman during the chase up the cathedral -- and my mind latched on. Though, perhaps out of a desire to avoid spoilers, even mood spoilers, in those two months I'd never play the CD's last two tracks, "The Cellar" and "Finale." Those were for the part of The Silence of the Lambs that I hadn't seen. (So was the third-to-last track, "The Moth," but that somehow didn't occur to me.) I was very disciplined about that.

I'd heard Shore's work before -- The Fly, Big -- but it hadn't made a big impression on me. Lambs made a HUGE impression. And it may have made me better prepared for the time, a decade later, that Howard Shore began creating a musical version of Tolkien's Middle Earth.

There. A few paragraphs of my 1991 self, reawakened by music.




* I remember several years before, when I was a fourth-grader, watching a TV news show with my folks, and they asked me to leave the family room when a report came on about a MTF (Male To Female) person. They felt I wasn't ready to know more about this; and I certainly didn't yet know anyone who identified differently than their birth gender. I wound up not learning much more in the intervening seven years. I know I still have a lot to learn.

** WAVA (105.1, Washington D.C.) has been a religious format station from 1992 on, but it's where I first listened to Don & Mike; in fact, I listened to Don from fall 1984 on, when he had the afternoon show and before Mike went from his behind-the-scenes job to on the air.

*** I love how humane and humanity-loving the film is. May that never grow old.