That Evocative Final Freeze Frame in Tootsie

The other evening, I was laid off on the couch, flicking through channels to see what I could find. I landed on that wonderful movie, 'Tootsie'. It was about half over or, in the optimist's version, there was about half of it left.

I stuck with it to the end, as I pretty much always do. It’s a favourite of mine, you see. I think it’s all about the timing. It’s a masterpiece of comic timing. So I hang in there, whenever it’s on, just to see it through.

The end titles started to run, as they do at the end and, rather surprisingly, I found myself feeling a bit moved, which is not my style at all. I suddenly started to feel as if this frothy comedy from way-back-when was something more than that, something more important.

Why was that?

I sat down and thought about it and this post is the result. I may go a little too far, at the end, I may not. Let’s just see where we go.

First and foremost, and as I've said already, it’s a great movie. It was back then and it still is now. And now here's the end credits and it’s over. Maybe that’s a good first reason to feel justifiably emotional. It’s a start at least.

Then there’s the song. Here’s a confession for you. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Stephen Bishop. Back in 1983, when I worked full time in The Stables bar in Sligo, we used to play his ‘Careless’ cassette tape in the back bar quite a bit. What can I say? It got in my head. At the end of Tootsie, Bishop sings ‘Something’s telling me it might be you, all of my life’ and, maybe even back then, it was just a wee bit touching. Maybe.

Then there’s the memories. When I first saw it, who I went with. I remember all of that. My pal Nuala was on a visit back from London where she had gone to live some months before. She was full of news about this great film she had seen and it had just arrived in my neck of the woods. She insisted I would love it and dragged me along to see it. She was right, as she so often was, then and now.

What else? The sheer quality of it. Like I said, the timing. Bill Murray’s ‘You slut’ line. The stammering revelation scene ‘deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply, deeply…’. Isn’t the goodness of it all enough to bring a tear to one’s eye, on your own couch late at night?

It’s all of these things, to some extent, but it’s none of them really.

I know what it is.

It’s the freeze frame at the end. That’s what it really is.

In that final scene, Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, confront each other on a busy New York street. You remember, right? The timing, again, is wondrous to me. They reach an accord and walk off down the thoroughfare, getting smaller in among all the people on the crowded pavement. She bumps him with her hip and he falls away but immediately comes back up close to her like he simply can’t be kept away any more. And then the picture freezes as the titles and the song continue to run.

We could have watched them for longer, Jessica and Dustin, as they faded smaller and smaller into the distance, and we reckon that would have been nice, but the freeze frame is even better. It’s like a tiny golden moment in time, captured forever.

That’s the reason why it’s more ‘good for a tear’ now than it was then. It’s the passing of time. The film came out in ’82. It sometimes seems as if it were a mere moment ago yet it has actually been a full thirty three years. Next year it will be thirty four and so on and so on. The moment on the street remains there frozen in time. The fashions of the street people in the frame, once so contemporary, now start to seem of a different era. The two people who bumped each other fondly along the sidewalk have aged and gone on to other things yet here they still are, held forever in their moment in time. A reverse Dorian Gray moment.

It’s become an analogy for something, that freeze frame, a metaphor for something else, a microcosm of yet another thing. Time passes so quickly. Golden moments are retained by us as best we can and love, love is all there is, really. It’s all there is.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have watched it lying down. Perhaps too much blood flowed into my head and fed my already over-ripe imagination. Whatever the reason, 'Tootsie' seemed to speak to me of many things the other night but it made me smile too so that’s okay.

The frozen image at the end of the film, the one I’ve been talking about, cannot be found on the Internet. Not by me anyway. I wanted to use it as the photo for this post but I simply couldn’t find it. You can freeze it on a YouTube clip and screen grab it but the resulting quality does not do it justice. 

Perhaps it’s one of those things that works better deep in our heads as opposed to on a computer screen.

Something’s telling me that might be true.

STOP  PRESS

Jim found the image for me. That's it on top. It may diffuse my closing sentence but I had to show it to you.

Gosh, The Library

Yesterday was Saturday and I had a spare hour so I went to the Library, as I so often do. 

Patricia needed a couple of books so I looked up what people had enjoyed in 2013. 2014 favourites are more likely to be checked out. I came up with two books, ‘Schroder’ by Amity Gaige and ‘The Silent Wife’ by A.S.A Harrison. I found both of them.

I also found the ninth in a Manga series called ‘Bleach’ which Sam is currently crashing his way through. He got the first three off his brother at Christmas and I’ve been finding the rest on the library shelves since then.

I considering borrowing a nice Special Edition DVD of The Life of Brian because I know the guys would love to see it because they adored The Holy Grail but I changed my mind when I considered the amount of nudity I’d have to sit through with them. Not ready for that yet. Sorry, dudes.

I went home with my booty, infinitely happier than when I went in. As is always the case.

You see, I love the Library. It’s not an overstatement of the case, I just love it. I love going in and poking around the shelves and the computer database. I love finding stuff and bringing it home for free. 'Bloody love it, I do.

Our library here in Castlebar is particularly good but, in fairness, I’ve pretty much loved all the libraries I have been a member of, down through the years.

My first library was in Sligo. I got my ticket so young. Where, for so long, I was restricted to the small rectangular kids-section down the back but where, one day, far too small, I asked if I could possibly have an adult ticket and they gave me one. I remember that evening so well. I was like a goldfish we once had. We kept him for ages in a smallish bowl and then I bought him a large tank and he didn’t know what to do with himself in it for a few days. He kept swimming around in a bowl shaped circle until he gradually got accustomed to his widened horizons. That was me in the grown up section of the Sligo Library. That first evening I borrowed a Robert Heinlein book – Glory Road – mostly because there was a cool Dinosaur type monster on the cover. You can see it on the picture above. I see that it was the first UK hardback imprint and now sells for £175. I borrowed it for nothing and read it from monster-cover to monster-cover. It was okay, not as good as the cover. I think I was eleven.

In subsequent libraries that I joined, the choice was wider and the quality of choice higher. First there was Dublin and then the various Boroughs of London I lived in. Kensington, Ealing, Acton and finally Twickenham.

My overriding impression of Twickenham, where I lived for about three years, was the day I brought my new son in with me. He was in a carrying device that fitted across my chest and he was very well behaved and much-admired by staff and patrons alike. I’d say it was my beaming pride in him as much as his own impish good looks which drew them all in. I can’t remember the books I got that day, sorry.

I remember being in Boulder, Colorado for a month and being allowed to get stuff out of the library there too. I remember being amazed that you could borrow movies on video there and that it didn’t cost anything. That was incredible, to me, in 1990. I rented ‘The Manchurian Candidate’.

Then there was Melbourne library, with its magnificent reading room. I spent every day of one month in there, writing my very first screenplay, longhand, in 1990. Buggers still haven't made it... 

Today, there are places where Libraries are threatened. People say they cost too much and have to be reduced or even closed altogether. I am glad to see people fight and resist this and I gladly add my voice to theirs. Thankfully there is no talk of such foolishness here but, if there ever was, I would do my best to fight it tooth and nail.

It’s not just about the wonderful ability to access reading material for free, although I don’t know what I would be if I hadn't had that resource all of my life.

It’s about Sanctuary.

Libraries offer Sanctuary for people like me and for many other kinds of people too. 

It’s a place to go when the rain, real and metaphorical, falls hard upon you. A place where nobody needs to see you buy something before you can be welcomed. A place where, after a time, everybody may come to know your name.

I’m grateful for many things in my life. One of them is my Library. It has taught be and entertained me and sheltered me and given me a reason to go somewhere so many times that I couldn't possibly count them all.

I treasure it.