As I was waking up this morning, before I opened my eyes, an image crossed my mind, a hairy, hideous beast crying tears that turned into diamonds.
When I was in middle school, which we called junior high school back then, my family went to Florida over the holiday break, which we called the Christmas break, and I spent most of my time sitting around the house reading The Fountainhead.
Don’t laugh. I must have been 14 or so because I didn’t quite understand yet how ridiculous that novel is.
One morning I was resting my eyes for a moment and caught a flash of something intriguing on the television. “Go back,” I said. It was mid-morning, and I had just seen something beautiful, sublime even, in luscious black and white on the small screen.
The subtitles were French. I wonder if this singular experience led me to take French later on in high school? Perhaps.
The book forgotten, I saw a film that would stick with me and maybe transform me. I was a rapt viewer, an adjective I notice shares a root with rapture. Really, that’s what watching this movie was for me, a rapture.
Until 11 a.m. rolled around that is, and, at that moment, my Granny didn’t care what was on the local PBS station because it was time to go to lunch. Really.
I begged and begged to stay behind to watch this movie. I had no idea what it was but knew it was remarkable and that I may never have another chance to see it. After all, those were the days before VHS, and access to films was limited.
I was afraid that I may never even be able to figure out what the film was, and I cried a few silent tears just like the Beast, though mine did not turn into diamonds.
Happily, that random encounter with the mastery of Jean Cocteau’s 1946 film La belle et la bête is one of the handful of formative experiences with films that helped lead me down my professional path.
I was sad that morning to leave the dazzling images for the buffet line but thrilled years later to see the film again and know that I was right as a teenager to appreciate things about it that were beyond my ability to articulate.