05 April 2010

Not the Same Time, and Not the Next Year

I remember, as if it were yesterday, screening the movie Same Time, Next Year. This 1978 film by Robert Mulligan, starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, portrayed the annual, romantic tryst of a man and a woman, each married to a different person, who sometime in the 1950s, happened to discover themselves in bed engaged in sexual activity, and who then continue to meet in the same room on the same date every year for the next twenty-five or so years. For one weekend every year—same time, next year, they intone to each other upon departing—these two reunite to . . . well, that is the issue for me right now. Why do they maintain this relationship? I never got the sense that it was the fantastic sex, though even in 1978 such suggestion was not something polite society acknowledged, at least in the society to which I belonged. The two do not seem to share an intellectual life, nor do I think they read the same books—well, if they read books at all. During these rendezvous they do exchange personal headlines reporting the significant occurrences that have taken place to each of them in the past year, and these communications inspire the appropriate response from the other while offering some shallow catharsis for the audience. These were perplexing, traumatic times in the United States, and so over the twenty five years of their relationship we observe the steadily (even rapidly) changing social mores and beliefs which made up and sundered society’s fabric. In fact, however, the characters in the film are mere emblems, a means to display the social changes rather than actually explore them, and the film manipulates the audience into a shallow, nostalgic, solipsistic miasma that obscures the complexities of the social, political and psychological order in a superficial image of conflict and change exemplified in the relationship of this politically correct couple. Ah, yes, the audience sighs comfortably, I remember: that is exactly how it was.

It was a terrible movie, actually: sentimental, and false as all nostalgic movies must be. These productions do not portray reality, but only the perception of how reality might have been if only there were no conflict or context. But I don’t mean to talk about the film; I want to address here the film’s premise: same time, next year.

I suppose that somewhere out there out there exist individuals who can sustain such a relationship, but I cannot understand how it might be accomplished. I cannot comprehend how it could be possible to live separately and without any contact for an entire year, one filled with an immensity of details and incredible (even incomprehensible and unspeakable) complexities, and then to come together for a single weekend into an intimate situation and behave as if the whole previous year of absence and silence had not occurred at all. To pick up where one left off as if only a brief interruption had occurred. “Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted by our lives?” Or in these reunions to enact the illusion of an intimacy as a response to a costume or an altered physical appearance, or to some sudden, even dramatic but necessarily generalized revelation that provokes some clichéd response. I have always thought that intimacy results from behavior as well as intention, and that true intimacy—the kind intimated in the film as occurring during the yearly trysts—requires consistent effort and regular vulnerability and an engagement and sharing of daily living in what is for most an ordinary life. Otherwise, I think, such occasional occasions become the business of catch-up. There is no development. In the film, the relationship is static because it lacks real life.

The issue: how to expect the intimacy of a relationship to be sustained and even to grow when there is no contact and sharing and leaking enjoyed during the very long periods of time between meetings. Is it true that there could be no other place or time to have any contact whatsoever? What is the function of such yearly meetings if there has been no development of any intimacy in the time prior to the meeting? Couldn’t I find such conversation closer to home? Here, the film’s actions serve merely to portray the changing times, though the people never do really change at all. What is finally gained by such annual assignations except the marking of time. For Thoreau, since the pursuit of perfection made time irrelevant, these meetings had nothing to do with perfection.

And if the universe is expanding into nothingness, then as a concept nothingness is an object to which I can relate.

And I cannot any more understand the draw of such meetings for me. I have nothing to catch-up with or on—ending my sentence in prepositions without their objects.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that what you seek is an epistolary intimacy in which to share complex confidences.

05 April, 2010 14:30  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no there there.

08 April, 2010 12:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pleasure is the reason,pleasure that can be snuffed out by complicated expectations.

The year in between is nothing, the weekend is all.

05 May, 2010 19:23  
Blogger A. Alan Block said...

And what does that mean for the year to say that it is nothing?

08 May, 2010 07:27  

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