Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Mr. Hulot's Holiday

Mr. Hulot's Holiday
seen @ Films on the Green Festival, Tompkins Square Park, New York NY

The differences between Greenwich Village's two major parks, Tompkins Square Park and Washington Square Park, are profound. Where the latter has straight, direct paths from all sides, the former has winding paths covered by the foliage from the trees. WSP has the fountain and the arch; TSP has handball and basketball courts. WSP attracts more street musicians and buskers, not to mention tourists. TSP is more of a neighborhood park. Both have children's playgrounds and dog runs; both have public bathrooms (I give the slight edge to TSP's; it's a little less scuzzy.)

Both parks reflect their neighborhoods. WSP is a sunny, scenic attraction that lies in the heart of not only the Village, but the New York University campus, and as such, attracts more of a cosmopolitan, international crowd. WSP is folk music and Henry James and co-eds and Fifth Avenue. TSP is a scruffier, more shadowy space that, even in the face of gentrification, still clings to its alternative image. TSP is punk rock and Allen Ginsberg and homeless people and St. Mark's Place.

When I first met Jenny, she was still living in the Village. This would've been the mid-90s. She moved east into Alphabet City around '97 or so, and through her, I got a real taste of the East Village: the bars, the cafes, the cheap places to eat. Even now, there are places that still remind me of her. For a very brief period in the late '90s I lived on East Second Street, which was great because I could walk to work. That was the only time I actually lived in Manhattan. I remember there was a decent record store on the street level. Years later, I worked on Avenue A for awhile, and that was fun, though it had its moments. There was this homeless guy who would camp out on our front step every so often, and every time I'd chase him away, he'd come back sooner or later. Most of my co-workers were musicians, some of whom played at the Sidewalk Cafe across the street. There was a bar below us and a smoothie stand next door that sold delicious Rice Krispie treats.

I vaguely recall the riot at Tompkins from 1988. I didn't go into the Village much back then (sticking to the Upper West Side, where I went to high school) and barely paid any attention to the news, so I can't talk about that period with any authority. I only know what came after, and even though Tompkins has dramatically morphed into a more family-friendly park, I've still never felt completely comfortable there. I guess I just prefer Washington Square.

Not that either place would've helped changed the way I felt last Friday night while watching Mr. Hulot's Holiday at Tompkins. I think that after weeks of dormancy, my hay fever is coming back with a vengeance. I've gotten the trifecta: runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, and though I've been taking my allergy pills it continues to stick around. I never get it in July, though, which is strange. Normally by this time of the year I'm feeling great, but not now. I had a headache throughout most of the movie and was on the verge of dozing off a couple of times at least. It was a short movie, which helped, but I didn't find it all that funny, which didn't.

I knew about co-writer-director-star Jacques Tati from seeing The Illusionist earlier this year and from reading about him here and there. Apparently the not-quite-silent-movie format of The Illusionist was a regular thing in his own movies. The title character is a kind of French Mr. Bean, saying very little and bumbling his way into situations, but he doesn't have the manic energy of a Chaplin, nor his gift for slapstick. The humor is kinda cute, but it's also tame. The movie had subtitles, of course, but I still missed having Andrea around. I told her about this show, but she doesn't like watching movies outdoors.

I came to the park with my own chair, but I didn't need it - they provided rows of chairs. The screen was at the south end of the park, approximately where the old bandshell used to be. The movie attracted quite a large crowd, too. I didn't expect so many people for a foreign, subtitled movie.One lady next to me brought bug spray and applied some to herself. I think I may do that myself the next time I go to an outdoor show.

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