Went to see The Misfits at the Brattle tonight, with an introductory conversation with Robert Brustein and Tony Kushner. The connection being that The Misfits was written by Arthur Miller (and features Marilyn Monroe), and Tony Kushner edited the recently published Library of America collection of his plays.

Kushner frustrates me; I agree with 95% of what he says, but he is so scattered and then there are these bizarre things, like introducing a movie he hadn’t seen (!), and then not sticking around to see it because he decided to go to dinner (!!) even though he just finished editing a collection which includes a novelization of the movie he was introducing and didn’t bother to see (!!!).

He is quite articulate, though. I was doing a small compare and contrast with the previous night’s activity, and was imagining a debate between Shane MacGowan and Tony Kushner.

“Mwahasdfjai. adkfm aiefnb!”

“Really, Shane, that’s extraordinarily perceptive of you, but I beg to disagree with your contention that…”

It’s funny, but then again, it’s not. A huge gulf exists between the two audiences, too, and it’s another indication of how segregated Boston is, even for white people. Last night, one of the opening acts were the Street Dogs, a local punk outfit of Irish-American kids from Dorchester. They sang songs about unions and had the mostly blue collar Boston Irish audience pumping their fists. I was wondering at tonight’s little event what would happen if one of the Street Dogs got up to ask a question during the Q&A. The entire audience would just freeze in their chairs even hearing the accent. Everybody in both camps is probably very far left of center; why do they seem so far apart? As Terri pointed out, this probably seems especially weird to us, being swing state babies.

We ran into Amanda, our former Cambridge landlady, there, and caught up with her. She’s opening an art gallery in Gloucester. She asked me, “Isn’t this nice? It’s all so… Cambridge-y!” I was thinking, but didn’t say, “yeah, kinda depressingly so.”

Oh, and there was a movie, too. Often, I love the Brattle and hate Brattle audiences. Tonight, that was the case. There was a stunning amount of that patented inappropriate Brattle laughter. Yeah, some of the performances are not so good, especially Marilyn Monroe, when she’s trying to hard to be a Serious Actor. Yeah, some of the dialogue is a little stilted, especially when Arthur Miller is trying too hard. So people laugh when these things happen, to tell us how sophistocated they are, to tell us you know that what you’re seeing is a little bit schlocky. Or worse, the laughter crops up when presented with something that a somewhat complicated emotion, something that’s beyond the pale of the viewer’s experience. Like when Clark Gable’s character, an aging cowboy whose gotten a little drunk bangs on the roof of a car and screams for his kids, and falls off into the dirt. Not funny. At all.

Kids, we go to movies to go beyond ourselves. Deal.

So it’s difficult to sort out what I really thought from all the nosie. But I know there was a lot of annoying stuff in it, including a lot of, “hey, check it out, that’s Marilyn Monroe, isn’t she H-O-T!? She’s my wife!” Montgomery Clift does a terrific job of playing a punch drunk young rodeo cowboy who’s taken one too many falls off a bull. Thelma Ritter, a great character actor, was great as always. Clark Gable really looked the part of the old cowboy, who is trying to live in a world that has changed in ways he doesn’t quite understand.

I can’t resist pointing out that his character’s name was “Gay”, so we have another precedent for a gay cowboy movie.