A teacher taught me once that two pieces of art have some things in common. I’ll expand that truth into its eventual next step in what great art expresses. That it has common threads not just to the time when the artist made it but also with eras after.
This was true with the first movie that The Secret Sessions: The Movie Experience chose to screen. A great comedy of our time, Anchorman eerily reminded us of the misogyny in the broadcasting industry. It also reminded me of the sexist American electorate because the first session happened during the US election.
The series will prove to be more resonant the second time around.
Like the last time, an e-mail told me how to dress for the event. But this time they told me to dress in black, white, or grey. I prayed to Satan that they’re not showing Fifty Shades of Grey.
Then they attached something I needed to bring – my Letter of Transit. Oh. It’s not Fifty Shades of Grey, thank Satan. And this is where my ambivalence kicked in, because the situation that this movie is showing is still happening.
I felt ambivalent seeing it in this context. People will be paying $35 to watch a movie that they think is just a love story from the past. But to me it’s about people who were suffering the same way people are suffering now.
I didn’t even like it the first time I saw it. But it’s one of those few movies that showed me its great aspects, one showing at a time.
It’s one of those movies that mean more to me as someone who left my country. There are minor differences between my experience as a teenager crossing oceans and Casablanca’s characters. But I can relate to them.
Rationalizing this context worked. This is not a frivolous experience. This is me watching a movie made by refugees trying to stick it to the Nazis.
Now I feel bad that The Secrets Sessions might choose something less serious for its next experience. But the thing is they might choose the most innocent comedy or romance the next time. But someone in the audience will connect dots that might actually have been there.
This time around, they chose The Revival and wisely used both the main floor and the basement.
They transformed the former into Rick’s, serving kebabs on a stick and sliced naan. The themed cocktails are more expensive this time. Although I have never thought a bourbon cocktail can be fruity and good.
They recreated the time that the Occupying Forces shut down Rick’s because it was an ‘illegal gambling venue. ‘ The party moved downstairs. They transformed the basement into The Blue Parrot – I don’t remember this set is the movie. It’s been a while.
There’s a belly dancer, who I also don’t remember in the movie. She makes the experience more Middle Eastern than the movie’s setting. This dancer was great.
Rick’s reopened. In addition to our tables there were also ones where the actors would reenact scenes from the film. An actress storms off, dejected, perfectly in character as one of Rick’s side paramours.
I am praying for these actors though, who eventually have to fill the big shoes of the original cast. They also have to do this while we’re simultaneously watching the original cast. I’d be sweating buckets.
I remember the actor playing Rick as one of the supporting cast during the previous session. His deep 1940’s voice is a good kind of different from Humphrey Bogart’s lisp. I actually want to see the actors switch roles around.
But this way I can see that he has a slight resemblance to the actor playing Victor. And I never realized that Bogart and Paul Henreid slightly look alike and have different approaches to the same values. Which explains why Ilsa fell in love with with both men.
These younger actors bring something to the characters no one dare touch. I already praised the actor playing Rick but the one playing Ilsa has her share of talents too.
She might not get Bergman’s European maturity, but her decision to show Ilsa’s ups and downs is an interesting choice. She takes advantage of her big crying scene. And I always like a woman who can carry a gun without needing an evening bag.
The setting somehow reveals more of the movie’s craftsmanship. And I’m looking forward to the next one.