Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Girls on Film.

While I admittedly haven't seen much of director Paul Thomas Anderson's recent work, two films of his (back to back) are pinnacles of my late 20's...."Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia." (Along with whatever film he was creating in my sleep...)

"Boogie Nights," Craig and I saw in the theater, even though it was scandalous and porn-ish. Then I had it on VHS. It was during my being in temporary disability from working at R.S. Owens, and I would literally play the film over and over again and get tanked on narcotics day in and day out. Movie-stealing scene?  (At the time relatively unknown character actor) Alfred Molina's portrayal of an eccentric LA guy whom the main male characters of the film attempt to rob to get money fueled by their coke addictions. To this day, I don't know why the scene stands out to me so vividly from the film:

Anderson's 1999 "Magnolia?" I own it on DVD (as I do "Boogie Nights") but haven't watched it since I saw it, again with Craig, in the theater. In going through my CD's recently, I found the soundtrack, which has the film ticket stub inside the jewel case. Why? Because it was during "Magnolia" that I went into labor with Luke when Craig and I saw the 12:30 showing on January 16, 2000. I was very uncomfortable and fidgety, having contractions, but damnit, was determined to get through that 3 1/2 hour film because I knew it would be the last time I'd get out and do anything minus the anchor of a child for quite some time. The soundtrack, by Aimee Mann, was something I'd listen to in Luke's nursery when I was trying to get him to go to sleep. With the exception of including Tom Cruise, whom I loathe, into the movie, it was a great series of vignettes about people grappling with not being very lovable. Anderson's direction of this clip, which is how it's presented in the film, blows me away. This is Aimee Mann's "Wise Up."

And another fine one..."Save Me."

It's unusual that a film director will actually take charge of dreams and direct them. Early this morning, Paul Thomas Anderson was doing just that, except it wasn't a movie, it was my life in my late 20's. But I suppose if I had my choice of dream directors, PTA would be high on the list, as would Roman Polanski.  He's a helluva film maker. Even better and perhaps more apt? Woody Allen.

In my dream, Anderson had a script we were all supposed to be following. My mom, my Aunt Pat, and my first cousins Pam and Sue all came barreling into my old apartment on Summerdale in Chicago that Craig and I shared from the time we married in 1996 until we moved to Park Ridge in 2001, when Luke was about a year and a half old. My family was freaking out about how filthy my apartment was (and it never really was), with Craig holding Luke and me scrambling to get garbage picked up, before my older brother appeared, my family held me down, and Steve poured gasoline from a can down my throat, which I tried to spit out but couldn't, and I was fearful that I was going to be set on fire.


I asked Anderson why actor John Goodman wasn't in the film playing the bartender. "He's too old and he drinks too much," PTA said, as we mutually looked over and saw Goodman drinking straight up whiskey. (Whether or not Goodman has an alcohol problem in real life, I am not aware.)


Yep. The recurring, oft-starring, gorgeous elderly actor Sam Waterston, who has played my Knox history professor in my dreams more times than I can count, though in this dream, he was my therapist. Breaking away from my whole family, still spitting out gasoline, Waterston presented me with his credentials as a Navy veteran (in real life he was a Yale man) and I physically shook him by the lapels of his blazer and told him to buy me a one-way ticket to Brazil so I could get away from everyone.

In retrospect, I think the catalyst for Waterston appearing as the therapist stemmed from yesterday's Ethics issue (I got an A on my midterm, thank you very much. How could I not? I was wearing my Bruce Lee t-shirt.) of how unethical it is for therapists and clients to forge a romantic or sexual relationship. Sam and I didn't have an inappropriate relationship in the dream, (unfortunately) though in class yesterday, I had to role play with a classmate in a scene where the female client has come to the male therapist for guidance regarding her mistrust of men whom she perceives are all using her, only to have her seedy therapist announce in session how attractive he thought she was. After pouring her heart out for weeks about her love life, the therapist takes advantage of her vulnerability, and the client suggests she find a new therapist, much to the interested male therapist's chagrin, as he attempts to coerce her into working things out as client/therapist, before they decide they're mutually really attracted to one another and their whole interpersonal therapeutic dynamic goes down the toilet. I asked my professor if issues like this actually, really come up in therapeutic relationships and she insisted that they very often do, after which you cite your professional ethics and abandon your budding lust.

I couldn't handle Sam Waterston being my therapist. He's TOO attractive, smart and, while trustworthy on the surface, I'd have a hard time broaching sensitive issues with him, because his gorgeousness would be too distracting.

After begging Waterston for the plane ticket via Anderson's scripted direction, my cell phone started blinging with texts and woke me up this morning.


Why Brazil? I have no idea, as it wasn't a Terry Gilliam (Monty Python)-directed dream. What would I do there? Beats me. Do I have a desire to visit Brazil? Not particularly. Would I eventually totally put the moves on Sam Waterston if he was my therapist? Oh, for God's sake, what a ridiculous question. Of COURSE I would.

I asked my Ethics professor if the American Medical Association operates from such an ethics-code-based, stone-set of rules and regulations similar to that which counselors/psychologists are bound. She uttered a resounding "No, not at all...you've got doctors dating nurses, doctors romancing the office workers, doctors and patients dating..," at which point I completely shut my mouth and didn't elaborate as to why I was asking that question. The AMA is allowed to operate largely with individual doctors deciding what's ethical and unethical, while therapists are strictly bound to uphold the American Counseling Association's 2005 Code of Ethics and not deviate without devastating consequence and the threat of license-stripping.

And who needs that bullshit?

God really fucked us up by giving us the unconscious. Honestly. Like the subconscious isn't difficult enough with which to grapple, we humans are tortured mentally by visual and auditory stimuli that, while completely out of our control, guide our slumber.  That which is supposed to invigorate and regenerate us gets muddied by feelings and urges we tirelessly suppress in our daily real-life interactions.

The vividness of the dreamscape is particularly unwelcome for people who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as I do, and it's during those dreams when all of that latent fear and distrust are manifested. Those dreams come and go in waves, often precipitated by a trigger of some kind, affecting any one of the senses. It's very easy for the layperson (or counselor even) to tell the person with PTSD to "forget about it," but how is that possible when the unconscious prompts the activation of torture endured that is part of the long-past?
All I know is that I wake up scared, freaked out, icky, shamed, and seeking comfort, which goes largely unresolved in my own life, so the only people I really talk about it with are my 2 kindred spirit friends who also have PTSD. All I'll say is that most of us have "anxiety dreams," which are normal. PTSD-rich anxiety dreams feature anxiety + fear + shit you lived through, and are like 10 times worse.

Then there are other dreams that are pleasant, or happy, or warm and wonderful, intimate, or even goofy...while asleep, they are sheer joy. Yet when I wake up, a gaping hole called "reality" slaps me back and those hugs and kisses I imagined didn't happen. Those elusive accolades or compliments were never uttered. That success was never achieved. That person I love so much is still dead. Or, like the picture above, the conversation played out in my head turned 360 degrees and went in a totally different direction than I anticipated or desired.

So, no. Despite my unconscious, Sam Waterston isn't my therapist and I'm not packing for Brazil. The upside? No, my brother didn't choke me with gasoline. On a scale of 1-10, I'd give the freakout factor of the Paul Thomas Anderson mental film-loop about a 7. Or one thumb up and one thumb down, if I'm going to Siskel & Ebert it like a proper critic.

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