June 8, 2009

I was hustled.

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This weekend, on a lazy afternoon, I walked over to Cinema 21 to watch Paul Newman in The Hustler. I had never seen it before.

The Hustler had more romance in it than I anticipated - it was quite touching, the relationship Paul Newman had with Piper Laurie's character. As they were eating a picnic lunch and she declares "I love you." She is met with silence, and then Paul Newman says, "You need the words?" "Yes," she says, I need the words." He doesn't return her "I love you" then, but he seems affected by it. And it's not awkward or confrontational, as it is in almost every love story you see on screen now, when one person says I love you and it's not returned. This was different - it was truly love, I think and it was understood.

As the movie goes on, and they become more and more cemented together in a sort of alcoholic construction of a complicated relationship, their devotion to each other is evident, destructive and addictive. George C Scott as the scoundrel of a manager breaks in and pokes his hot fire poker around, stirring things up with cruel words and the belief that lovers are in fact disposable and meaningless.

Jackie Gleason also delivers a touching performance as Minnesota Fats. I really enjoyed watching him in this movie - he developed his character subtly and masterfully throughout the movie so that at the end, I was unexpectedly attached to him. Brilliance.

I was immersed in the story and could empathize with the need to gamble, the need to love. It's a great movie. Time went too quickly. Two hours was not long enough for me to be in their world. I don't know why, but this weekend I was particularly vulnerable at the theater and was entranced by the idea of the movie, and the performances. I loved it.

The Hustler is playing through Thursday night this week at Cinema 21.