Moving On

Last night, I showed one of my recent favorite films to my mom, the movie NINE. I must confess that she was rather taken aback by the raciness of the first half of the movie, but I think she appreciated the film in the end. After all, the women on the screen of NINE are more clothed than many bikini wearers you see out in public. The songs may be talking about sex, and the dances suggesting it, but it’s not nearly as disturbing as watching actors pretend to have sex on screen. And the costumes, music, storyline, actors, and the way in which it is filmed are all fabulous! So I don’t mind so much. (But, still, if you were planning on watching this with your kids, think twice – thrice – unless, of course, your kids are planning to watch it with their friends no matter what. In that case, perhaps you should watch and discuss it with them instead of leaving them to sift through their thoughts on their own. This film may be rated PG-13, but R would be more appropriate.)

Once you get through the first half of the film, you begin to learn more about the main character, Italian film director Guido Contini, and just how burdened he is. Guido Contini (played by the incredible Daniel Day-Lewis) is the biggest reason I love this movie. There are so many times that I have (and do) feel just as trapped, perfectionistic, artistically stuck, and directionally confused as Contini.

Contini struggles throughout the film to even write the first page of his script. People rave about his first several films throughout NINE and call his most recent films “flops”. Well, Guido provides the word himself, but they are all thinking it. He is stuck, unable to start his next film script, because he is putting too much pressure on himself to make his next film just as ground-breaking as his first films. He is stuck and cannot move forward. In my own life, my desire for profundity and perfection is not a stimulus to make me work harder. It keeps me from starting things in the first place, be they creative projects, cleaning the house, working towards personal goals, or seeking out deep relationships. I want everything I do and make and say to be dazzlingly brilliant, and that is incredibly stifling.

Guido Contini and I are definitely not the only two who struggle with this issue of perfection-driven stalemates; there are many who have run into this problem in the past, as well as now, and in the future. The modern-day character of George in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George is also unable to move forward because of his desire to “say something new” through his art. He speaks with Dot in the park towards the end of the musical and she has some wonderful things to say to him. Dot – in the musical – was painter Georges Seurat’s lover and became the woman with the hat and parasol in the foreground of Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Her daughter, Marie, becomes the grandmother of modern-day George. In this particular scene, the words are so wonderful that I cannot pick out any smaller part over the rest, so I will put them all in, as is, right here.
DOT                    Are you working on something new?

GEORGE          No.

DOT                    That is not like you, George.

GEORGE          I’ve nothing to say.

DOT                    You have many things.

GEORGE          Well, nothing that’s not been said.

DOT                    Said by you, though, George.

GEORGE          I do not know where to go.

DOT                    And nor did I.

GEORGE          I want to make things that count,
                               Things that will be new.

DOT                    I did what I had to do.

GEORGE          What am I to do?

DOT                    Move on.

                               Stop worrying where you’re going. Move on.
                               If you can know where you’re going, you’ve gone.
                               Just keep moving on.

                               I chose and my world was shaken. So what?
                               The choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not.
                               You have to move on.

                               Look at what you want,
                               Not at where you are,
                               Not at what you’ll be.
                               Look at all the things you’ve done for me:
                               Opened up my eyes,
                               Taught me how to see,
                               Notice every tree,

GEORGE          Notice every tree,

DOT                    Understand the light,

GEORGE          Understand the light.

DOT                    Concentrate on now.

GEORGE          I want to move on.
                               I want to explore the light.
                               I want to know how to get through,
                               Through to something new,
                               Something of my own.

BOTH                 Move on. Move on.

DOT                    Stop worrying if your vision is new.
                               Let others make that decision; they usually do.
                               You keep moving on.

                               Look at what you’ve done, then at what you want,
                               Not at where you are, what you’ll be.
                               Look at all the things you gave to me.
                               Let me give to you something in return.
                               I would be so pleased.

GEORGE          Something in the light, something in the sky,
                               In the grass, up behind the trees…
                               Things I hadn’t looked at ’till now:
                               Flower in your hat, and your smile,
                               And the color of your hair,

                               And the way you catch the light,
                               And the care, and the feeling,
                               And the life, moving on.

DOT                    We’ve always belonged together!

BOTH                 We will always belong together!

DOT                    Just keep moving on.
                               Anything you do,
                               Let it come from you,
                               Then it will be new.
                               Give us more to see.
Your work doesn’t have to be genius or amazing or ground-breaking; it is quite all right to be ordinary. No genius has set out saying, “I’m going to make my best film yet,” or “I’m going to start on the book that’s going to make me world-famous,” or “This next song is going to top the charts for the entire summer,” or “My next discovery is going to cure Type 1 Diabetes”. Things like that normally come as a surprise, not as planned successes.

Sometimes the most meaningful and profound things come from the simplest of stories, intentions, lyrics. Profundity can be found in the sheer perseverance of someone going to work every day and trying their best. Most days, they may feel that they are getting nowhere; somedays, they might make progress; and only on once-in-a-lifetime days will they have that major success. The film that Contini started making (his ninth film) at the end of NINE was not a fantastical story with Claudia Jensen (Nicole Kidman), the muse he had used in his films previously. It did not have the flashy costumes or convoluted storyline he originally wanted. It did not attempt the monumental task of describing all of Italy and its culture, as the immodest title for his original ninth film – Italia – suggested.

No, two years after stopping the production of Italia, Contini came back to make a movie with a much more simple premise: a man trying to win back his wife. That storyline, based on his own life and coming from the deepest wound in his heart, was what made his ninth movie so good. It did not come from Claudia Jensen, who was tired of acting the muse; from his costume designer (Judi Dench), who wanted another rendition of the Folies Bergère; from his Vogue reporter fan (Kate Hudson), who just wanted a showcase of Italian style; or from his mistress (Penélope Cruz), who was desperate for his love. His ninth film came from his point of weakness, when he had lost everything save his money and his fame (which are no companions for anyone). It came from his own failed relationship with his wife (Marion Cotillard) and his belated realization that he did in fact need her in his life. His ninth film came from him and that was what made it new.

Read from the beginning:


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