A slow look at speed

The snowy weather makes us slow down, but here are two films about speed you may want to keep on your weather radar.

speed-dating-flyer_aug1The Age of Love makes its point that the yearning for love doesn’t change at any age, but really doesn’t offer many other insights.  It’s a documentary about seniors speed dating in Rochester, NY.  Their event was only open to 70-90 year olds, so I had high hopes for age-appropriate, fresh fun.

Immediately striking is that the women looked a whole lot better than the men.  I expected the participants to revel in the freedom afforded by age.  But instead, I was mildly surprised that the women expressed the same longings they probably felt at 20–their lives didn’t have meaning without someone to share it with.  One woman had not married, so her sentiments were especially notable.  Does she dismiss her life to date as meaningless?

Both the women and men were either overly critical or not critical at all, in selecting people they’d like to see again.  Just as if they were 30.  They were needy, flippant, desperate, emotional, analytical.  Just as if they were 30.  The men and the women were hopelessly vain and as tied to cultural norms as no doubt they were at 30.

Okay, the point was well made, particularly to the Quinnipiac University undergraduate audience, who sighed and ah’d with each ‘cute’ thing a senior did or said and with the inevitable heartbreaks.  I couldn’t help but be silently critical of the youths for their superficial, unknowingly belittling ways.  Will they remember this film when they get a little age in them?

My friend and I did both laugh out loud at one point.  When one woman arrived for a first date after the speed dating event, she said, “you’re not the right man.  You’re not who I thought I was meeting.  No, forget it,” and turned to walk back to her car.

The gaggle of girls in the audience gasped.

Then the couple basically said, fooled you.  They had planned this prank on the filmmakers, and audience, in advance.  Imagine having a camera crew follow you on a date.  Well, with reality tv, maybe you can.  We saw one man, pulling his oxygen tank, almost get stood up.  Another said to the film crew, “time for you to go now,” as he waited to be fed dinner at his date’s apartment.

I’m devoting a lot of words to this movie, as the premise of seniors bothering with something as frustrating and frivolous as speed dating is intriguing.  But I was hoping for a joie de vivre that age can offer, a sense that the seniors were free to take risks, to dare to be different than their younger selves.  Instead, I left with a sadness that perhaps we never do change, let go of old insecurities, find a different kind of liberation as we lose the pleasures of a younger body.

Edouard Manet never had time to find out.  He died young, at 51, of syphilis, suggesting he’d done plenty of living up to that point.  But I digress.

Another form of documentaries gaining speed right now, and it’s worth a date, are the films profiling museum exhibitions.  Manet: Portraying Life does a pretty good job of looking at key works, and few lesser known paintings, by the intriguing Manet.  He was known as the master of the modern, showing us how the speed of modern life affected Paris in that 19th-century moment.

While some of the commentary is pretty light, following the speed dating phenomena of selling headlines to see if the buyer will want more, other moments are quite wonderful.  Each profiled painting is shown with musical accompaniment, no words, for about 90 seconds.  So we, as viewers, can simply look, or fall asleep, depending on how into it you are.  Risky, but worthwhile, in that slow-looking mode gaining in popularity in museum education these days.

Plus you get a tiny snapshot of what’s involved in putting a show together.  The series started with Rembrandt and continues with Vermeer, so take a slow look for these and speed up to get a ticket for a date with some art.  I bet you’ll find it more gratifying than dating with the seniors.