I’m getting a little tired of the fact that the things that could happen so seldom do happen. I don’t want it to happen every time but I’m sick and tired of it never happening. I often look at women and think of the promise they represent…
Sometimes the weight of all the time that’s passed, all the time that I’ve been alone, all the friends in my life who’ve moved on in the normal course of things, and I just stayed behind waiting for the normal course to find me… Sometimes the weight of all that is pretty… crushing.
(I’ve) been worshipping at the altar of All That’s Fucked Up, and a little too dismissive of All That’s Healthy And Not Fucked Up. I think I’ve been a little too quick to accept the idea that if it’s not “fucked up” it’s not “compelling”. I put my finger on the hot stove again and again and again. And not only did I put my finger on the hot stove but I actually celebrated the idea of putting my finger on the hot stove, like “Hey, I’m just the guy who puts his finger on the hot stove and, y’know, I think it’s kinda cool that I do that.” I like being fucked up like that. Maybe I’m here saying I gotta stop celebrating All That’s Fucked Up.
But there’s still a little immature voice inside of me bemoaning the fact that this Nice Jewish Boy part of me prevented me from ever being as gloriously fucked up as I wished to be. I don’t have great stories of having month-long drunks, high on peyote buttons, waking up with Mexican hookers.
What’s the proof of my fucked-up-ness? Stayed up all night downloading and smoking. Met another woman who broke my heart. I’m alone and I smoke and I eat and I’m fat and I’m inflexible and I’m sarcastic and I watch too much tv. I’m FuckedUp LiteTM…
– filmmaker Alan Zweig, in Lovable
At turns funny, sad, hopeful, scary, poignant, comforting, and always courageous, this is a thoroughly beautiful film (my favourite in the Hot Docs festival, as a matter of fact). If you didn’t watch it when I toldja to then you suck.
And, as I mentioned then, I have more to say about this one…
For me–(admittedly perplexedly) single at middle-age–watching this film was like sitting in some kinda 12-step meeting for the lonelyhearted because here I was, surrounded by folks (and by “surrounded” I mean “on the screen”, but I reckon there were more than a few in the audience too) who felt a lot like me, whose circumstances were a lot like mine, and who articulated many of the thoughts and feelings I have had, myself. “I am not alone!”, I cried.
Of course, I am alone. And so are they. There’s the rub.
And, unlike at a 12-step meeting, there is no suggested “solution” to the problem. No clear, defined path to take to get the hell out of the woods. Alas!
The women that Zweig interviews in his film are smart and funny and articulate and open and honest and courageous. And so is he, because, you see, he is just as forthcoming about his own (equally perplexing) singlehood as any of his interviewees is. (His is the only male perspective in the film.) We hear the bewilderment in their voices when they say “Maybe I want it too much.” or “I must be ‘Being Saved’ for some ultimate ‘The One’. For something fucking substantial. All of this suffering can’t be for naught.” or “It’s like I’ve got my face pressed up to the glass of a display I’m not part of and not attaining on my own.” or “Am I obtuse and spiky and no one will ever love me?” A few of his subjects appear to have become content with their singlehood, but many haven’t. Almost all are puzzled by it, though. Zweig, himself, says that he wonders if his friends know the reason why he’s still single and don’t want to tell him because it’s just so fucking horrifying.
If you are single but don’t have the ability or the willingness to laugh at yourself, then you should probably stay away from Lovable. This is such a personal subject that I think it required a lot of courage for these women to agree to talk so openly about it on camera and I think it also takes a lot of courage for a single person to watch it. Words like “loser” and “pathetic” crop up numerous times—the interviewees insisting that these descriptions are 1. not true and 2. not fair. One points out that it’s not her fault that she is single at middle-age. Which is true, I suppose… I mean, it’s not as if I can snap my fingers and Mr. Right will show up on the doorstep, orchids in hand, sweet nothings on his lips. (Tried it. Doesn’t work. Fucksakes.) Thank God, though, few people in this film have lost their sense of humour about it. I laughed in self-recognition a lot during this film (there is much self-deprecating humour–my favourite kind, as anyone who knows me can probably attest), but there were also moments that felt like somebody had reached into my chest and given my heart a squeeze. Moments of real shock at self-recognition. They took my breath away. (How often does that happen in a film? How often has it happened to you? Can you remember the last time?)
And I can’t not mention his use of mirrors to capture himself onscreen. He sets up a mirror and shoots himself speaking to the camera in it. This is the technique he used in his previous documentaries, Vinyl and I, Curmudgeon. I am unaware of any other filmmaker using this approach. I especially like it because it is so intimate and, to me, the presence of the camera in the mirror image reminds me that he is not only a character in this work but also its creator. This does not allow the viewer to forget that he is putting just as much on the line as any of his interviewees is. Mebbe even more.
All this, and an achingly beautiful soundtrack of love songs hand-picked from Zweig’s cd collection (which I’m going to try to compile for a mix cd since I don’t suppose it’s likely to be released as a soundtrack, so if you happen to have any of these tracks–Frank? cy?–please lemme know!)…
“Let’s Go Driving” – Barzin
“My Low” – Howie Beck
“Sad Sunday, Part Two”, “These Things” – Jack Breakfast
“Hangover Days” – Jason Collett
“Too Much” – Julie Doiron
“This Night” – Detective Kalita
“Your Light is Spent” – Final Fantasy
“Imaginary Bars”, “Moving Pictures, Silent Films”, “When It Flows” – Great Lake Swimmers
“So Small” – Jim Guthrie
“The Pig & Sucker” – Picastro
“Losin’ You” – Amy Millan
“How Could I Survive” – Neverending White Lights
“Drink to me Babe then” – A.C. Newman
“O You With Flowers” – Royal City
“Federal Mail” – Justin Rutledge
“A Broken Sign”, “Don’t Stand On Me” – Sparrow
To be loved, be lovable.
→ originally published 2007-05-14