Monday, April 09, 2007

An older crowd

Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

Dylan Thomas

As I mentioned in my last post, I love going to the cinema alone. Although last week when I went to see a film at the Archipel cinema on the Boulevard de Strasbourg I was a little too alone, the only person there to watch the film. It was just me and the projectionist. I was highly conscious of my interaction with the film. I felt he could hear my merest smile and see the clouds which formed around me with my merest sigh. And then there was the awkward moment at the end of the film when the credits roared over the screen and I turned vaguely in the direction of the light and waved goodbye to him: you can turn it off now, I’m going.

I like there to be at least a couple of other people in the cinema and I mainly like an older crowd, which you tend to get if you go to the afternoon sessions. The other day I was pleased to be sitting not far from a giant mole infested man, probably in his seventies, who vocally expressed his distaste at the films previewed, and the advertisements (although he kept a polite silence during the actual film). Normally I read a book through the twenty minutes of advertisements before the film but I loved his critique, a critique he’d earned through living years of life and cinema, ce n'est pas drole, ce n’est pas intelligent. He voiced my private contempt for advertising and films which aim at the lowest common denominator audience rather than raising the bar a little bit higher and leaving stretch marks on people's minds. I don’t believe films should act as a divertisement. For me films are art; they should add something to your life, not take you away from it.

More and more I enjoy the company of a much older crowd. Maybe it's because I'd still rather be taught than be a teacher. Or because I’ve been a daughter, sister, friend, enemy, girlfriend, niece, nymph, vamp, but never a grandchild, as all my grandparents were deceased before I could meet them. As I move through my thirties, a white hair spied and dyed by a discerning hairdresser gives the first indication that one day, I too, will be old.

I’m always annoyed when people refer to old people as "crabby". Often what may be viewed as crabbiness is rebellion rather than conservatism. I saw my aged comrade at the cinema as rebelling against the homogenisation of society, with all the raging wisdom of someone who has had enough time to think and to have a history.

A book I read a while back has stayed with me. In Bertrand Vergely's Voyage au bout d’une vie he discussed the last years of the life of his elderly, dying mother and his search to find suitable care for her and how this search reflected Western society's neglect of the old aged. There was a line in his book which I noted, which i've heard before: that in Eastern culture the older you get the more beautiful you become, but in Western culture it is the opposite.

In Eastern culture the older crowd has traditionally been respected as repositories of light-giving knowledge and wisdom, whereas in Western culture they are labelled "crabby" and left to die in the black.