Splendor

My friend Elizabeth worked for several years at a video store called the Movie Fan. My BloNo friends know this place, and remember it fondly, from its dragon-with-a-megaphone logo (“Seymour Movies!”) to the entertaining staff picks (Das Boot—the 10-hour directors cut!!) to Dave, the bespectacled, movie-loving, all-around dear individual who made the trip inside worth it, even when you didn’t have a film to rent or return.

E shared a story once of one of the rare really tough nights she worked there. She had a migraine, the kind that originate in the back of your head or in your neck (she was prone to them) and Dave had a war movie playing on the mounted monitor above the front desk. The volume was up, and she felt as if the bullets and cannons shooting were pummeling her head, making her dizzy and sick. She hated war movies, not for the violence (trust me, she could handle gratuitous violence just fine—ahem, Cronenberg) but for the way they sounded.

But then, on a different day, the tables were turned. Elizabeth put in Splendor in the Grass, one of our favorites, and when it came to the bathtub scene, the one where Deanie, having repressed her feelings for Bud and after he dumps her for his Yale future and casual sex with the “loose” girl at school, screams at her mother when she asks whether Bud had “spoiled her.” It’s several minutes of screaming, unhinged meltdown, and Natalie Wood did it so well, but Dave’s reaction was to mute the sound with a single click.

It was an outrage. He could stomach all sorts of bullets and explosions but not a five-minute scene of Natalie Wood yelling at her mother (who by the way, deserved it for contributing to the unconsummated ruin of her daughter’s first love) and lashing out because she knew she had lost something before she had ever had it in the first place.

But E didn’t blame Dave for not seeing this, because it was not really about Dave and his war movies and his injudicious use of the mute button. She simply changed tacks: “Family video has the porn version of it. It’s called Splendor in the Ass.”

I imagine Dave chuckling nervously before unmuting the movie, with Natalie Wood now fully clothed and quiet in a cheap red dress with flapper hair she has chopped herself, searching out the dance for Bud in a futile effort to become what she thought he wanted.

“I just can’t go on like this anymore,” she says.

The jazz music in the background is a lie you can listen to.

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