Saturday, January 10, 2004

big tales

We saw Tim Burton's Big Fish this afternoon. The movie ended up being more promising that it looked in the trailer.

It is a close companion to the Coen Brother's re-telling of the Odyssey in O Brother, Where Art Thou. Set in another fabled corner of the American south where magical realism goes hand in hand with a thick accent and a smile, Fish is the story of a man's (Albert Finney as the father and Ewan McGregor as his younger idealized self) lifelong legacy of embellishing and telling stories, and his son's (Billy Crudup) resistance to these stories.

The ending pulls all the strings of the plot together, and while I won't spoil it, I must say that it put me into some reflection of my own family.

My father died several years ago, but the movie reminded me of the services at his gravesite when I heard a couple of stories, one from his brother/my uncle and another from his friend, stories that I did not know about, and that gave me an opportunity to see his life differently.

The other memory this movie churned up is one of Sunday afternoon's in my grandmother's living room in Bellmead, Texas, a suburb of Waco. The men would gather in the kitchen and play dominoes on the aluminum table, shuffling the tiles, and laughing and talking in that terse sort of way men can sometimes do.

But in the living room, the women gathered, including two of my great aunts, southern in name and in accent. They told stories, funny, shake a gut stories, about their own past, about people they knew in their childhood. I often snuck into the living room to listen to them. I think these experiences encouraged my interest in listening to voices, their qualities and signature shapes. This little movie reminded me of those Sundays a long time ago.

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