I am sitting in my chosen seat in the center of the audience at Metrograph. I am seated next to nobody in row F because the empty seat beside me in the sold-out theater is also mine.
I am sitting with my empty seat in the sold-out house to watch Whit Stillman's Metropolitan (1990).
I am appalled at how little I recall from a film that made such a deep impression on me, back when I first saw it years ago. I suppose half a decade is a while and over half a decade is long enough to turn memory into wiles that I have fallen for, the fool.
Who are these people and where did they go?
In the Q&A following, Whit reminds us that Audrey Rouget's spurned romantic attempts make her the sympathetic heroine, opposed to her object of desire, Tom Townsend. Tom may be the standard "good guy" we are led to believe we should relate to ("we" being beneath the Urban Haute Bourgeoisie debutantes and their escorts) but Tom's choice to remain consistently wiled by quantity-over-quality Serena Slocum leaves poor ("limited resources") Tom to be the unsympathetic cad after all.
"I haven't been giving you the silent treatment. I just haven't been talking to you," says Tom to Serena at the ball, only one of which he attends as Audrey's friendly escort. They deflect internally emoting their situations by preferring to be literal and point-blank with their dialogue, lines that seem to say exactly whatever they need to say, even candidly.
I am sitting with my pen and notebook in my center seat in row F, occasionally scrambling to complete a note without missing the conversational volleys. I know my face is fully illuminated by the screen and reflected from the distance glasses I remembered to bring, two white shapes on my blue skin in the theater. I am aware that the rest of the house behind me, and above in the balcony overhead (the Urban Haute Balconoisie?) are privy to my entire left side next to an empty seat in the sold-out theater.
I like this, doing what I want to be doing, regardless of company. I don't need to take responsibility for someone else's enjoyment, although this is not what I say to the dates I consistently deflect with my point-blankness.
Do you want to grab a drink this week?
I'm busy every single evening.
What I am not saying though is that busy indicates I have plans and usually I have plans that I keep to myself. The routine of going out alone is part of my comfort; the anxiety of an other is uncanny; a party is a spectacle of a mystery confined to one space for the duration of hours, during which guests must also act as curators.
Sometimes I think I hate art, but is it internalized emotion or literal candidness?
What I don't like about this theater situation is the display I become as one person in two seats. I am someone who rushed in seven minutes after Metropolitan began and excused my way into row F during a laugh line. Even the usher did not accompany me into the theater.
If they call one's people company then does the host become the boss?
If this is the company I keep then how do I know when to trade or sell?
Can I give you a promotion?
Am I allowed to quit?
Are you private or public?
What are we worth?
I think of the people I invited who could not make it.
I think of the people I thought of inviting but did not. The moment when I realized I was trying to curate a mystery, so I contentedly resigned.
"It's a tiny bit arrogant of people to go around worrying about those less fortunate," says Nick Smith, the social savior in a suit of blinding ego and wit.
Am I Audrey or Tom or Serena?
Sympathetic, unsympathetic, catalyst.
I admire the careless boredom portrayed by the actors and non-actors, all of whom are waiting for an action to descend upon them: at an apartment before the ball, at a dinner table during the ball, at an apartment for the afterparty. As Stillman tells us, the point was to stick to low-key constraints while finding ways to persuade impressiveness: costumes, makeup, lush couches and club sodas in the ever-absent parents' living rooms.
Everyone is waiting in every scene.
When sans television, Internet, mobile phone, or other smart device, a conversation is the fodder of meaningful stimulus (speaking platonically). Whether or not it is captivating and worthwhile or wiled is the real never-ending story, the original RPG.
But games can be so exhausting.
"You're a snob, a sexist, totally obnoxious and tiresome, and lately you've gotten just weird," says Stillman's "Judgmental Jane" as a public shaming of Nick before their friends.
His only correction to this is: "I am not tiresome."
I wonder where I can find Nick Smith.