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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Time slows.



Sunday December 11, 1983

I've been ill, and sedentary, sleeping a lot more than usual, staying in all day. What am I resting for?

I've not managed to do much work in the apartment, painting, nor even get back into my reading. Such is the cost of thinking thoughts that are not yet conscious.

I am daydreaming, as if to bring the power of dreams to life.

Books, yes. I am putting together a pile of things to take with me to read in India, when I go. I am looking forward to the trip. I am restless here, though I wish it weren't so.

Not a word from Merchant-Ivory on the editing front. Someday there will be a project to keep me in New York, allow me to become part of the city again while I work.

My unemployment again draws me overseas. I'm offered jobs abroad, but not here. I feel like a stranger.

The problem is unlocking the mind from it's accustomed ways of moving about, down the same paths and streets, the same greetings, the same habits, the same thoughts about the same people.

What other turf is there in any man's mind, never before explored?

A man grapples with a lock that does not bind him. He needs only to stop and see that the chain is free. But with the head lowered, how can he see anything?

How to meet the task head on, yet be free from it?

Exploration of the world, for me now, means venturing into new territories of thought.

In travel, I pass through chasms of memories, beneath dried fruit clinging to naked branches. One must not touch the fruit of the past. It is not real! It is not edible.

I stop in places altogether new and strange, never before conceived or imagined. Could this place possibly be one's own? So foreign, so strange and different, yet already holding some minuscule part of my being.

Directors and Lady friends, in this and Other Worlds

Saturday December 3, 1983 - All day in the editing room, putting together twenty minutes of footage to represent "The Bostonians" at the Merchant-Ivory Retrospective Screening, coming up this next Wednesday at MOMA. The irony is the film isn't even completed, and as of now, I'm not the editor. I'm being brought in to put together the best bits, a trailer so to speak, so they can show a morsel of the unfinished film alongside their completed works.

Jim must have called three times from Claverack. "Please put this shot in," or "Leave that shot out!" As usual he has more difficulty cutting down than adding; I'm afraid my reel of selected takes will just bore everyone silly, especially after they've seen the completed film that precedes it, Ismail's very brilliant but long "Courtesans of Bombay".

The gala event will be at the Museum of Modern Art. Afterwards everyone will going to Raga for dinner, of course.

Yesterday Jim and I had lunch. He told me how frustrated he was working with J___. I told him it was his own damm fault and he admitted it was true. (I was a bit bent out of shape that I hadn't been hired straight away.) To compensate for J____'s poor cutting and falling so far behind schedule, Jim hired another editor, a third assistant, and another cutting room. Ismail is desperate. At such times he becomes the totally frustrated producer, tearing his hair (not much to tear!), distracting himself by yelling at distributors in far away places like Paris, or London.

The delivery dates for the film, and the mix dates in London are all set and cannot be changed. Ismail got a deal by pre-booking and pre-paying the mixing studio fees. So the production is really in a pickle. The completion guarantors will stick it to Merchant-Ivory if he doesn't deliver on time. So now the problem is Jim has two editors instead of one, and is afraid that this will divide everyone into two opposing camps. Furthermore neither person is likely to give their best effort if the burden of responsibility is not clear. Who is the editor of the film? That has not really been decided.

The new editor just hired, is an attractive woman named Catherine Wenning. It will be a week at least, before she is able to cut enough to show her mettle. What worries me most of all about Jim's handling of the problem is London. The dialogue replacement, dubbing, footsteps, the whole post picture-cut production happens there. Distributors and investors lurk with baited breath. The picture-cutting will still continue, even while Brian Blamey or some other sound genius has a go at finding tracks suitable for a film that's remains a work-in-progress. Titles will have to be designed, opticals ordered, music recorded and cut. Without an editor in charge of the post-production, it is doubtful whether Jim can finish the film on schedule.

I must remind him of all this, particularly since he is likely to turn to me for help as a bail-out solution. I have already determined not to involve myself in the cutting of the film at all unlesss I get a full editor's credit. I'm miffed at both Jim and Ismail for not offering me the job in the first place, and though secretly relieved that I am not actually having to do it, I am concerned that it may fall to me as a result of poor J___'s incompetence. That's a bit unfair really. He's talented enough to do it, just the kind of person that becomes less capable the more the heat gets turned up in the room. Merchant-Ivory can be a boiler room to work for. Pressure is part of the job. Ismail drops in twice a day to scream and yell and turn up the heat. The craftsman bends his back and shovels coal.

When I told Jim to cut his losses and spare both him and J____ the agony of going any further by letting him go, he responded, "You are saying the exact same thing as Ruth and Jhab," in a tone that implied, "The more of you that say the same thing the less likely I am to listen!"

But I could tell he was listening, and only wanted to find the courage to really listen, and take action. Of course I needed a job, but it had to be on full and equal terms. They'd first hired me seven years ago as a runner, and weren't used to me saying things like "you should do this and not that". Understandable.

Jim told me he had gone to see Jessica Tandy last night, backstage after a performance of hers and that she had not recognized him at all. "All the months we spent working together!" Jessica had played Miss Birdseye in their film.

"Not even a glimmer of recognition. I was so flabbergasted that I walked right out of her dressing room."

Well clearly she had remembered her lines that night, so perhaps she had an axe to grind about payment and was using the old "Who are you?" to get even. Perhaps she was becoming senile, it's possible, and also possible that Jim was so distraught over things in the cutting room that he was temporarily at least, unrecognizable.

"You mean you didn't even try to refresh her memory?"

"I couldn't bear to. With all those people standing there, whom she knew. I don't think she would have remembered."

"It's her age Jim," I said, not suggesting that it might have been the old New Englander's trick of regarding those allied with disreputable financial organizations, as personae non-grata. Hepburn would have done the same thing. I didn't dare suggest that Ismail's financial wizardry had shortchanged an old lady, and that Jessica had got her revenge by not recognizing Jim in front of a bunch of theater critics.

"All the trouble she had up in Boston might have induced a stroke. Who knows?"

"No, that isn't it," he mused. "It's something actresses do. They're so hyped up after their performance. All they can do is associate with the character they've just played. They forget the people in the real world. In their own lives. One's best friend seems terribly distant, acquaintances become strangers again."

Friends that don't recognize each other!

Isn't that what just had happened when Jim failed to recognize my ability to edit his film from the start, then blindly went ahead and hired a stranger, less capable than me.

Should it be me that points out this shortsightedness?

No. He wouldn't have mentioned Jessica Tandy unless he already knew that.


Sunday December 4, 1983

The great allegiances of one's life, that one has to follow, that one must submit to, will last a little longer.

What is all this lingering, where is it going, what is this pain, does it mean I am growing?

A difficult day, rifts of doubt and self cross-examination. When I am so distressed I cannot trust any of my voices. So I storm off to the movies on St. Mark's Place or down at the Bleecker. Showboat and Roberta. Black and White tear-jerkers. I cried a little. I like those old films. They make love seem so simple, and easy.

I feel wrong for having told my friends so early of my chance to go to India and work. I feel the tinge of their jealousy, and that has affected the way I view the situation. It's true, their envy causes me to be grateful. I feel it shouldn't.

December 7, 1983

A dream:

Lost on a high azure road overlooking Jersey City.

From the crest of the road I saw the Hudson River, and New York beyond.

I sat in an old Studebaker car with luxurious yellow leather seats, beside me in the front sat a tall dark haired woman, and her daughter. They drove me to the foot of their property, where there was an old gate, overgrown with vines. Beside it was a giant swimming pool, black with algae, and rotted vegetable debris. Suddenly the women got out and locked me inside the car. I felt the motor going into reverse. I attempted to break the window glass with my shoe, harder, harder, but the car rolled faster and faster towards the edge of the pool.

I woke up sweating, and realized who they are!


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