Tuesday, July 29, 2014

     As some of you may be aware, I've been away from the helm for a bit. Life happens and All That Jazz. But, sooner or later, like Bob Fosse the eternal showman said in his late masterwork: "It's showtime, folks!"

I've still been watching and revisiting some favorite films (most recently the late, great Paul Mazursky's underrated tear-fest Harry and Tonto, Francis Ford Coppola's Valentine to the S. E. Hinton novel The Outsiders on Blu-ray and Paolo Sorrentino's awe-inspiring The Great Beauty -- which I hope to write about soon in great detail); reading more than ever (Jane Smiley's Charles Dickens: A Life, Robert Trachtenberg's On Cukor and John Masefield's The Box of Delights among others); writing this and that (songs, poems and various marginalia); and collecting many original albums including Munch conducting Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé, Dusty Springfield's seemingly elusive Dusty in Memphis, Aretha's Lady Soul in glorious mono and Bobbie Gentry's seminal Ode to Billie Joe

It's been a profitable period of hibernation for me more than anything. Making new friends is usually something I abstain from. However, I seem to be fairly good at it. I was recently reminded of who my real friends and partners in crime are. Yes, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

This brings me to the correspondent you are about to read now -- an old friend, muse, mentor and fellow lover of all things truthful and exquisite who just happened to migrate South for the Winter one year and decided to stay. The piece she graciously chose to send back North is about another one of those perennially modish gems that seemed to fall through the cracks for some inexplicable reason. Thank God the '80s weren't a total blur to all of us...

Timeless Angst and the Struggle of Desire: 1984’s Reckless 

by Connie Rice

     A bolt of lightning recently took out my wifi, and because I don’t subscribe to cable, that act of nature also took out all my streaming television choices as well.  So I was inspired to connect my barely functioning VCR to my big beautiful flat screen and watch a few of my personal favorites on tape. 

Whenever I am relegated to VHS for any reason, as much as I would like to say I take a long time making my selection from my odd collection of classics (Apocalypse Now, Hardware, The Hunger, Breaking the Waves, Animal House, etc.), a difficult choice is actually never the case.  That’s because I have a copy of the amazing yet obscure teenage love story released in 1984 called simply: Reckless. 

To anyone reading this, I would be surprised if even five percent of you are aware of this film.  It didn’t win any awards, it has never been remade, and it took an incredibly long time to be released on DVD.  One of the more notable facts about this movie is that it starred the then unknown Aidan Quinn and not very well known at the time Daryl Hannah in the starring roles.

And they are both very, very hot. 

But I digress.  Also worth a mention is the soundtrack of that time period’s most perfect songs, which now would be considered “alternative” but back then were the videos being played on another new star rising on the horizon, MTV. Think “The One Thing” by INXS and “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde, not to mention the new wave hook up anthem, “Never Say Never” by Romeo Void.

The latter is the song that plays during the seminal scene of the entire movie, a hypnotic yet brief dance between the main characters, Johnny and Tracy, filmed in a Scorsese style circular spin at the high school homecoming.  The atmosphere is shadowy and the colors of the scene are murky shades of dark, but for the stunning red of Tracy’s dress.

He is an outlier, a misfit with a destructive streak, and she is the popular rich girl.  Her shy interest in him and his stark attraction to her meld rhythmically to become the basis for the rest of Reckless, in just two and a half minutes of punk rock dancing to lyrics that explain the situation with unabashed clarity: I might like you better if we slept together…

Reckless is an interesting piece of art because although it was created in an era that is so easily mocked for its dated style (big hair anyone?), somehow the film escaped the curse of being stuck in another time.  Johnny and Tracy could be teenagers today, because their angst is timeless and the act of falling in love and struggling through a desire that cripples your sensibilities has no set boundary.

We’ve all been there, in other words.

And Reckless brings us right back to that element of danger, of the unknown that someone like Johnny brings to the table.  The romance maintains a level of eroticism that is incredibly real, with one interaction comprised of a smoldering red lit encounter that may be one of the best sex scenes in cinema. You are left with the undeniable fact that Johnny is nothing if not hella good in bed. 

So the thunderstorm comes and the wireless is fried and I’m watching what is possibly my favorite film of all time blown up big on my modern day TV screen and I make a startling realization that bums me out immediately: so much of Johnny’s behavior is totally unacceptable by today’s standards of how a woman should be treated by a man.

Case in point: there are points in the film where our ultra rebellious hero engages in stalking behavior towards Tracy, as well as a scene where he forcefully enters her home after being told by her to go away.  Most disturbing of all is when Johnny physically assaults her (drawing blood even) when she disagrees with his plan to run away together.

But Johnny is misunderstood right?  His traumatic upbringing and recent life events have justifiably taken away his self control and given him a pass to be a little more on the wild side than the rest of us, a big part of his allure…or is he really just a fucked up narcissistic sociopathic abuser?  I’ll let you be the judge.    

Quite honestly, I was surprised when I saw Reckless with such a different perspective than I have had for all these blissfully ignorant years of viewing.  I would venture to chalk it up to my own recent life experiences, or maybe I was just in a bad mood because my fucking wifi was down.  But I’m not going to lie: I don’t think it would be possible to live happily ever after with Johnny, or any man like him.

That being said, I will never stop watching Reckless and I’m going to continue to study its details and its nuances, because I’m an artist and that’s what we do.  We think too much, we look too hard, we escape reality too willingly.  Johnny and Tracy and their freight train collision at the high school dance represent something so fleeting and so beautiful in this life of imperfection and loss, an intoxication that some of us chase our whole lives.
 
As for whether loving this film is wrong, one must remember the title of it after all: it’s called Reckless, and that’s exactly what it is.  Reckless means the sex isn’t safe, motorcycles are ridden without helmets during snowstorms, deliberate fires are set, the characters get perilously close to dangerous cliffs, and lovers commit acts of violence.  But it’s only just a movie anyway – not a guide for how to live your life.  Right?   
 
Connie Rice is still beta testing her music writing site Stereogenic.com and is working on a collection of very dark short stories that may actually see the light of day at some point.

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