2/16/21: Howards End (1992) — An Object for My Personal Meditation (like all of the other movies) #poetry

2/16/21: Howards End (1992) — An Object for My Personal Meditation (like all of the other movies) #poetry

You know that all of these pieces about movies are really about me, don’t you?

You know that all of my writing that you read is really about you, don’t you?

We all see different things

intention seems like folly

I see things in Howards End that its creators probably took for granted

It represents so much of what I want

Hipsters might laugh at it and call it middlebrow

Young people might think it is terribly old-fashioned

to the point of inaccessibility

Those criticisms and reservations may even have merit

Surely they do

In a way

For some people

But they are not what I see

The first thing that I see is the audience which existed in 1992, and I think exists today (you’re reading this aren’t you?)

that doesn’t have to be flattered in any way

An audience that comes to hear the artists out

Before I started writing, I talked a lot

The talk charmed some people, and got on a lot more people’s nerves

But that is all an artist wants to do

He or she wants to share all of these thoughts and feelings he or she has inside of him

and he wants to say it in his or her particular way

He or she wants to breathe

to share their view of the world

The artist doesn’t want to manipulate your out of your money

He or she loves you, you know

He or she pays all sorts of attention to you

and wants the same

But he or she wants to be honest

wants to be real

not to make you agree

or defer to his or her ideas

or be showered with your admiration …

Not for anything vain as all of that …

We live in solitudes

We are all alone

That’s what I think

and we warm each other with words

Communicating who we are to one another

and recognizing ourselves in the mirror

We don’t have to save the world;

by living in the world

by participating

we make the world perfect

Artists just need someone to talk to

and so do audiences

We get to be consciously alive

we don’t have to work on the assembly line

or be put together on top of it

and sold in a showroom when we are done

Movies are popular art, and so is my writing

By popular I mean movies are accessible

There are no prerequisites

you just start watching them


that word again

Howards End is accessible

but the audience has to work a little

A good audience listens actively

engages the piece

When the artists try to make something in a way that their audience finds interesting

They lose the soul of the piece

It either interests a person or it doesn’t

The artist doesn’t have to think about it

TV commercials grab your attention

but who really listens to them

Commercials share information

and stimulate desire

You can’t sell a soul

That’s why art traditionally has such a difficult relationship with money

Art can generate money

but the trick is to get it in front of the people who want to hear it

not to sell people who could care less

like serious movies that look like comedies in the Coming Attractions

and then piss off the suckers who get a challenging evening when they wanted a laugh

I don’t think Merchant Ivory planned a thing to sell an audience

But Merchant, the producer was a genius at finding the people who would love what they made

I love the collaboration

Merchant did the art business

Like an art gallery owner

not like a car dealer

Ivory directed the movies

Hired other great collaborators

Great writer

Great actors

Great composers

Great cinematographer

Great art direction

Great everything

All of the perfect parts

a collection of masters

Exquisitely rendering their separate and distinct tasks

Singing their soulful arias of their visions of the world

all harmonized by Ivory

and sustained in all of their material needs

by Merchant

Even their names are perfect

Merchant is a classy word for buying and selling

Nothing corrupt about it at all

And what is more pure

than Ivory

Art has to be sincere

Art has to be authentic

It doesn’t try to be pure

It just is

or its not art

and God knows not to be superior in any way

Just to be

to be what it is

The world needs the unadulterated soul expressed

The Soul is here

It can’t be ignored …

The soul dies

People die from being ignored too

We need the truth

It’s not optional

We have to know the way that we are

Masses of people live being pushed to and fro

Never understanding the forces that determine their lives

Never aware that such forces even exist

We need to engage the mystery from which we come, live in and go back to …

Art doesn’t transform us

we transform naturally

It is our consciousness that transforms

The more we know ourselves

and our predestined roles

The more we serve the world

The world is an artist

and we are its paints

All subtly different colors on an infinite spectrum

Mixing and contrasting with one another

Once we understand that

we stop wasting our time

Howards End takes it’s time

No anachronistic music on the soundtrack

No scenes of the Napoleonic Wars scored with covers of Bill Withers tunes

Maybe the director guides us past visual art and symphonic music with the reverence and civility of a museum docent

But I like that

I like civilization

I like reverence

I like creator and audience respectfully encountering strangeness together

The strangeness of a bygone historical period

The strangeness of art

We are given an opportunity to access

but we have to take it

Howards End was marketed like every movie has to be

But in an expert way

The movie itself isn’t marketing

The story comes from the soul of a great writer

Not survey cards from test audiences

I used to love the Merchant Ivory movies

I never saw this one before

but I got to see several of them at the Paris Theater in New York

Off of Fifth Avenue near the Plaza Hotel

A neighborhood of great aspiration

at least it was in those days

A confident pursuit of beauty and power

A great neighborhood for Merchant

and Ivory

I had a romantic view of New York City in those days

It never really existed

this dream of wonderful art and responsible wealth and power

I saw the actor James Spader waiting for the light to change near the Paris Theater once in the eighties

Just at about the time that he decided to go exclusively for the money

and he looked like it — like his art was just his path to the auto showroom

kind of smug and selfish and a little mean

He wasn’t paying attention to the city at all

or the people in it

He was focused on something else

all Merchant and no Ivory

and my dream of New York City ended

for the City

but not for me

and I still think it’s possible

As a matter of fact I think it si the time for my dream to be real

I think people are desperate for it

And I live in a kind of anticipation

a hopeful feeling buoyed by something greater than reason

The soul and the world turn toward each other

and when they are both ready

They embrace …

One time Francis Ford Coppola was waiting in line outside of the Paris and in front of me

The Godfather and his other movies seem like they emerge from a frightening chaos

Frustration is followed by an explosion

and the result is a surprise

a relief

a miracle.

Coppola is a daredevil on the edge

of art or disgrace

fortune or ruin

Masterpiece or disaster …

I love Francis Ford Coppola movies

Like Orson Welles he is a fat indulgent genius

Genius is fat and indulgent

It isn’t moderate

It takes discipline

but it is a discipline of another kind

A discipline that requires obedience to all of genius’ unreasonable demands

all of its excesses


fashions a generous world

a world of operatic feeling

a free and thrilling place …

A place beyond all fearful and arbitrary boundaries

Welles and Coppola, fat martyrs who sacrifice themselves to assert the world’s glory

The glory that most people are too timid to see

let alone acknowledge

Merchant Ivory appeals to something else in me

I like their films’ civility

Their order

Their social structures

however imperfect

and at times the social structures are monstrously cruel

The characters are tragic

and I find the whole thing reassuring


at least they have a structure for their suffering

The characters belong to civilizations

most often Great Britain, but France, America and India too

that tried to make something out of nature

Nations as

Grand epic works of art

Culture is where the soul meets the material world

Merchant Ivory films are so cultured

Not missing the dark bits

or the light

The struggle to make something of this damn thing

this world

this life

come to think of it

the same glory and failure of Welles and Coppola

of us all

told in such a controlled way

How beautiful and wonderful and sad

The Remains of the Day is one of my favorite movies ever, and it is so beautiful and wonderful and sad

The characters’ sadness in The Remains of the Day is a much more preferable state than the deranged feeling of the last episode of the recent hit TV series, The Queen’s Gambit

a show that had all of Coppola’s tormented fury

and Welles’ desperate innovation

and all of Merchant Ivory’s precise and ordered artistry

in all elements of its film making

for the first five installments

and then ends


with the pulse pounding triumph of The Karate Kid

with what people who aren’t thinking

think is a happy ending

The Queen’s Gambit gives up

Coppola and Merchant Ivory never quit …

This poem is a message in a bottle

a piece of yearning and fulfillment

notes on a blueprint

all the art that we can make out of the natural world

What’s more real

The concrete of the Paris Theater and the Plaza Hotel

or the grand dream their creators wanted it to be?

Our true dreams have nothing to do with desire

Our souls are seeded

with the future of the world.

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s