This is the story of the little stirrup queen who put her foot in it...Pamela Jeanne commented: "I opened up and read the comments before I had formed my opinion firmly. I was leaning to Chicklet. Can't quite imagine Mel with the picture of a vomiting clown ... learn something new every day."
You would think, living in the same house as the film festival director, that I would have some inkling as to the major themes in an opening night film. But I didn't. I knew it was Argentinian and I knew the director. And that was about it. I have to tell you, that if you're going to invite a friend to come see a movie with you, you may want to find out the topic of the film beforehand. It's just a thought.
The lights dim and my friend and I start watching the movie. It is a sweet film about sons and fathers and how we are similar and different from our parents. Midway through the film, it becomes obvious that the father is not going to make it onto the final reel. Which is when my heart begins to pound. Because I'm watching the film with a friend who lost his own father to brain cancer a few years earlier.
Afterwards, I apologize and he is incredibly nonchalant about the whole experience. He told me it was fine and didn't seem anxious to talk about it. So we didn't. We went out and got dessert. And we dissected his love life. And we talked about a picture of a vomiting clown that I got in Italy. And we didn't discuss the film.
I felt like the biggest ass. If it were me, I would have (1) cried during the film, (2) excused myself afterwards to cry some more in the bathroom, and (3) then wanted to talk about it at dessert. If I have to sit through it, I would at least want to use it a cathartic release.
But that's just me.
It really drove home the whole idea of men and women mourning differently. I think sometimes because men don't necessarily cry openly or as frequently as women, we forget that they're mourning. Or we think that they're not upset. But seeing his back tense and his chin resting on hand as he leaned forward in his seat reminded me that just because tears aren't streaming down your face, just because you don't want to discuss it for hours, just because you can compartmentalize and move away from the emotions doesn't mean that you're not in mourning.
If this were a Hallmark card, the outer picture would be an ocean of tears and the inner message would read something poetic in a cursive font about crying and mourning and love and inner connectedness.
But they don't really make Hallmark cards for these sorts of faux pas.
But I am sorry that I didn't find out the subject of the film beforehand...
This is how I ended up with a picture of a vomiting clown.
My friend, A, and I made a reservation to stay in a pensione in Rome for two weeks while we did research. After we dragged our suitcases up six flights of stairs, we learned that the woman who owned the pensione had decided to do some renovations that week. "You'll stay in my apartment," she told us, giving us the key to her personal home.
Instead of a small room in a boarding house, we now had an apartment in Trastevere, a much nicer section of Rome, complete with a washer and dryer, several bedrooms, and--my favourite part of all--a shower with a window in it. I've always said that it is my dream to live in a house that had a window in the shower. Those who have never been in a shower like this usually respond, "it sounds creepy." But those who have showered in one know the saying, "once you've had the window cracked, you can never go back."
We left our bags and wandered down the street to grab a bite. When A and I travel, we have a tendency to eat at the same place for every meal so we choose a place close to the hotel. The first place we found was on our street and we went inside. The owner was only a few years older than we were, an American originally from Long Island who moved to Rome to run the restaurant with his father. The restaurant's walls were covered with street scenes that had been specially painted for the restaurant. We were seated the first night next to the picture of the vomiting clown.
It's a street scene during Carnival:
Notice the clown in the bottom right corner. Can't see him? Let me help you zoom in for a closer look:
What got me was the other clown, eyeing the vomit with fascination. We started eating at this restaurant every night, and every night, I could barely breathe whenever I saw this painting. I told A that I had to have a picture of it to bring back with me. On the last night, we were pretty drunk and I got A to take a photo of me in front of the painting, standing far to the side in order to get in the majority of the picture. I have cropped out my drunken-grin-and-messy-haired self from the picture.
"You like this painting," the owner said.
"I do," I admitted.
"That's my mother," he told us, pointing to the woman standing directly behind our favourite clown. "I had the artist paint her into this street scene. I love my mother."
"We love that clown," I said, motioning to the wretching man on his knees. "That's what we've been laughing about every night."
"What do you mean?" he said, turning around to study the picture.
"The vomiting clown. The clown who's vomiting in front of your mother."
"He's not vomiting! What's wrong with you? That's my mother. He's fucking eating pasta out of a bowl. This is a restaurant. Why would we have a fucking picture of a clown vomiting on our wall? I paid to have this painting made. That's my mother! He's sucking up the pasta because he fucking loves it."
I looked back at the picture, suddenly sober enough to ask. "If he's not vomiting, why is he crouched over the bowl with his hands on the ground? I mean, if he were eating pasta, wouldn't he have a fork?"
The owner didn't have an explanation. He just shooed us from the restaurant and slammed the door once we were outside. And we laughed all the way back to our apartment with the window in the shower.