Theme of the Month: The Touch
Star of the Month: Joan Crawford
Since April’s my birth month, and since it’s the last month before it becomes really obvious that the school year is almost over (does anyone else feel
like May is just preparation for the finality of June?), I like to think of it as a reminder that the passage of time is actually real. I’m getting a year older; clouds are more or less departing and are making way for the inescapability of the sun. The month is a rude awakening – after most days and routines looking and feeling the same, it works as a period where you realize transition’s making its way onto the scene again.
In times of transition, I usually find myself empowered by works of entertainment – and those who either create or act as part of them – that seem to cackle in the face of anxieties about change and The Future™. Nineteen-seventies punk peppers my playlists; I’m having a hard time stopping myself from watching movies directed by uncompromising filmmakers that feature characters who know their wants and their needs. I want to emulate these attitudes; I want nothing more than to stay self-possessed and as much myself as I can while things are shifting all around me.
Some works have The Touch – this strange, unspoken energy that snakes through a work of art that affirms that what we’re about to consume is superior to most other pieces simply because it is so distinctly, deftly created. This touch also signifies a filmmaking confidence that I want to bring into my life. (Not because I’m a filmmaker, but because I’m a person trying to learn and create and maximize my abilities and wants to do it all with assuredness.)
To me, movies considered part of the Hollywood Golden Age most often bear The Touch, though that could just be because there’s a certain kind of inevitable otherworldliness that shows up when you’re watching pictures made so long ago. To keep The Touch intact as much as I can for the entirety of April, I intend to almost exclusively watch movies 50 years and older, with some room, of course, for the modern.
Of the many actors to define this era, one I constantly think of as possessing the performer’s version of The Touch is Joan Crawford, even though her personal life and many of the roles she took on in her career were undeniably seasoned by turbulence. What I picture, I think, is the Crawford persona: the powerfully dressed woman in control with the ethereal visage. So many of the films she made, especially the ones after she starred in following her comeback, Mildred Pierce (1945), have The Touch – like Daisy Kenyon (1947), Sudden Fear (1952), and Johnny Guitar (1954) – and I find her startling in all of them. Crawford has long been one of my favorite actresses, and I’m looking forward to revisiting some of her greatest movies this month.
I hope you are too. Happy watching, and happy reading!