I Went to a Memorial … at the Movies

psh_most wanted man

On Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 I went to the cinema to say goodbye.  That afternoon, sitting in the center seat of the fourth row of the screening room, I watched one of my heroes and all-time favorite actor on screen for the last time.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was a rare breed; a generational defining talent. 

That final farewell of sorts remains one of the more poignant movie-going experiences I can recall.  A few days, and if I’m being honest some tears as well after I wrote this piece.  Today, on what would have been Mr. Hoffman’s 53rd birthday it seems fitting to share it again.  Because in some ways the farewell still feels fresh. 

Going to the Movie Theatre is a spiritual ritual for me.

Experiencing Cinema in its purest form has created a church of sorts. A place I go for more than just entertainment. It’s where my soul is fed; where discovery is made; where my creativity is renewed.

Countless times I’ve experienced more than an escape. More times than not, a deeper emotional connection is made. That’s what makes the movies magical. We’re just as likely to experience fun euphoria as we are profound wonder. And we can’t help but latch on to those certain icons that frequent the stories that speak to us, the actors, the characters, it’s a uniquely familiar yet distant connection.

Today, for the first time in my young life, upon entering my cinematic sanctuary–-I found myself in the midst of something new, something tragic … something final.

A memorial service commenced.

A Most Wanted Man won’t be a film that draws rave reviews. It won’t be nominated for awards. Nor will it carve much of a place in film history. Thoroughly enjoyable; well-made and superbly acted–-it’s certainly one of the summer’s finer films.

But this was more than a mere film of portraying the realities of espionage. This was more than another chance to find inspiration.

This was a therapeutic opportunity for me to say good-bye.

Today marked the last time I’ll venture to the theatre and see one of my artistic heroes bring-to-life a new role. The last time I’ll feel his presence exude from the screen portraying something larger than memorized dialogue. The final time I’ll find myself at the feet of a teacher learning from his fresh canvas.

I went to a memorial today … at the movie theatre.

As the final scene closed and the credits began to roll, the tears I’d feared would appear but had forgotten arrived on cue.

People chattered as they shuffled out of the darkened room; checking their phones; complaining about the plot; and tossing their popcorn buckets aside.

Sitting still and sad and silent I found myself in a way I hadn’t before.

Struggling to say farewell–yet–surprisingly renewed and at awe. For art and life, I’m convinced, are more intertwined than we can adequately word. And it is art that is remembered most by future generations.

At the memorial of this cinematic viewing, I was able to think about what we’re leaving behind on a deeper level than I had before. Knowing that genius and deeply emotional beings can and will continue to be conduits of something brighter, of inspiration long after they’re gone.

Today I felt emotion.

Today I said good-bye to a hero and mentor of sorts.

Today I was reminded; though we never met, through a common medium of experience and emotion–-learning can take place.

There are many of you that may not understand what I’m feebly attempting to capture. A few of you may know exactly where I’m at. But if for nothing else please remember this:

Sharing art; engaging in creativity, and yes movies, proves the beautiful tragedy of emotion and the potency of self-discovery.

Movies, and the talents bringing them to life, give us that portal into exploration and a better understanding of those of which we were otherwise not aware or perhaps ignored.

It gives a voice to the voiceless and grants music for the deaf. When we lose a patron saint from such a field, it carries a heavy blow. We will always remember, but we won’t be the same. That’s what it feels like to swim in a Philip Seymour Hoffman film. We tap into something a bit deeper, perhaps more eccentric, but yet intrinsically tangible and honest. He brought that to screen and stage, and it spoke to us. 

I had no plans on writing this.  It’s nothing more than a stream-of-consciousness. Simply put, I felt compelled to share my heart in some way. 

Farewell, Mr. Hoffman, you brought the spotlight to the overlooked; you taught us to feel; you showed us stunning and fractured humanity, and you made your mark.