Sunday, March 22, 2009

Geraldine Page

Once I thought of myself as an actor. For me, theatre was a church where beautiful literature and beautiful language and beautiful images came to life in the mutual breathing of actor and audience.

Sometimes that mutual breathing is figurative: instead of a live experience, film stands at one remove. Sometimes, however, the film is so bathed with life that I do live in the same space and time.

Seeing Geraldine Page again tonight in the great 1985 film The Trip to Bountiful reminded me of just how poetic and sacred acting can be. As an aging woman with a bad heart, she escapes the confines of the small apartment in Houston where she lives with her son and his nagging wife and spends a day traveling to Bountiful in the country, where she grew up. Her longing and sadness, her stubbornness and love, her goodness and fear shine through in a performance that is a miracle meeting of word and person.

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I don't act any longer, but when I see a luminous performance like hers, I feel the same thrill, the same illusion of being transported out of myself and wholly into another's being.

Transformation: that's what I seek from art, and that's what I sometimes get.

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