Thursday, July 31, 2014
“Once in a Lifetime” was in heavy rotation on MTV back in the day I think revisiting the number again in context after all this time was almost emotionally overwhelming for me. It is kind of a perfect birthday song, after all, much like how I once decided that Boorman’s POINT BLANK was a perfect birthday film. After all, how did I get here? How old am I now, again? The next morning I drove up to Griffith Park Observatory and looked out at the city, silently thinking about these things, the lyrics continuing to echo through my brain. I dug out an old cassette of the soundtrack and kept listening to the song, wondering about myself just as I imagine anyone in the world wonders about themselves while it plays. It’s still with me now. Maybe more than usual, maybe just as much, as I try to figure out where I’m going. And maybe more than ever it all seems murky, every day another reminder that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. Some may have forgotten but “Once in a Lifetime”—and, specifically, the STOP MAKING SENSE performance of it—is heard over the opening and closing credits of Paul Mazursky’s DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS, one of the biggest successes to ever come from the director who passed away at the age of 84 on June 30. BLUME IN LOVE and AN UNMARRIED WOMAN period, a decade which he portrays the journey of in his Truffaut homage WILLIE AND PHIL. Coming six years after the release of that film, the more blatantly comical DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS is just as much about its own moment, coming within the ever-growing rot of the Reagan era and the harsh sunlight caking down onto the cement. Maybe it’s because of the weather in L.A. lately but I look at the shots of the Whiteman’s house and surrounding neighborhood and it always seems so hot and garish, no shade to bring a moment of peace to anything. Even though the film is set during the holiday season it never feels that way in the slightest (the inherent Jewishness of the Whiteman family feels intentionally buried as well). Dave Whiteman feels guilt that no one else around him feels, the guilt that no one in the 80s felt—ultimately, the film is about coming to terms with that guilt and doing something with it. He’s another Mazursky protagonist who, as successful as he is, doesn’t understand how he actually got to this place, as certain song lyrics declare, and isn’t sure what to do about it now that he is. “i was there”. And he was. Maybe, in the end, it doesn’t matter how you got there and whether you belong, something that Dave Whiteman in DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS seems to spend too much time obsessing over. Maybe all that really matters is that you were there, somewhere that mattered to you, and that you spent the time you had doing something. Because, no matter what, there will only ever be a limited amount of time to do it. Same as it ever was.