Anyway, it reminded me of how much I loved Oscar Hijuelos’ book The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love when it first came out. I remember reading it on the beach one summer and that it was one of those books that you could fully enter into and get lost. I loved every page and was sad when it was coming to an end. So, trying to imagine how that rich, luscious novel got transformed into a movie, last night I got a copy of The Mambo Kings and watched it. I loved every minute of it.
I had seen it when it first came out and had mixed feelings about it but I was still enthralled by the book at the time. But now, with some distance between the novel and a new appreciation for the formidable task a screenwriter faces, I had a new appreciation for it. First of all, any movie that features Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas --- well, what’s not to like? And the music --- ahhh, the music! And the mambo. The dancing is glorious. There is one particularly luscious scene where Cesar (Assante) is dancing the mambo with Dolores and Dolores’s sister says to Lana, “He thinks he’s the last Coca-Cola in the dessert.” And Lana replies, “He is, honey. He is.”
So, as I was watching the movie (and it was one of those rare occasions when I didn’t even pick up my knitting) I realized this is what I want --- this is the feeling, the mood, the atmosphere I want for My Last Romance. Now how do I get it?
I see there is a commentary version on the DVD so I’ll probably watch that tonight and see if I can pick up any tips. But that movie (and the book that it was based on) made me realize that when a book or a movie (or any work of art) can completely take you out of where you are and transport you to somewhere else --- that’s magic. I don’t know if I can achieve that but I’m going to try.
So many people have told me that when they read The Old Mermaid’s Tale they felt completely transported. I’ve even had people bemoan the fact that the setting for it --- the Erie waterfront of the early 1960s --- no longer exists as it was then. So I know I’ve been able to make that magic for a few people. Let’s hope I can find the way again.
The best thing about doing this screenplay is that it is an excellent exercise in creative cross-training. When you approach your art from a new direction it gives you a fresh perspective as you appreciate challenges that never presented themselves to you before. It is exciting despite the frustration.
So, I’m learning and glad that I am. Who knows where all of this will take me but I’m excited to be making the journey.
Thanks for reading.