Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blue Like Jazz

I put the "pro" in "procrastination."  One of these days I'll get back on a regular posting schedule, but there's a lot going on right now and I'm trying to maintain my center.  Anywho, one thing I really want to talk about is the film Blue Like Jazz.

I've seen it twice now; once opening weekend and again a couple of days later.  It's that good.

Apparently, the project to produce this film started about six years ago and then they ran out of money.  Someone suggested they check out  They did, and in 30 days raised enough money (and then some) to complete production.  The film was released on April 13, 2012.  It's kind of like an indie film with really, really wide release.

Actually, that's exactly what it is.

Anyway, it's a film adaptation of Donald Miller's book of the same title, Blue Like Jazz. I read it a few years ago, back in '06 or '07 and really liked it.  I thought of it as the book I was aspiring to write.  Instead, this yahoo, Miller, beat me to it.  It's not like I've had anything published yet, anyway.  It's just one of those things.

I haven't read it since, though I enjoyed it very much.  I was excited to hear about the film, especially after seeing the trailer.  I was thinking to myself, wow!  This looks like an honest-to-goodness honest film made by Christians, not a Christian propaganda piece made by Christians!

Going into it, I was glad I had only read the book once and didn't remember much about it because then my expectations were able to be fairly broad.  I only expected that it'd be honest, it'd be real, and it'd be an authentic account of a young man struggling to make sense of his faith and the world around him.  In those senses, all expectations were fulfilled - in all other senses, I was blown away.

Now, I knew this film was going to be edgy.  It was going to be edgy because it was going to be honest; honest almost to the point of transparency.  The difference is, being honest is being real, but with discretion and thoughtfulness.  Transparency is being real but without a filter of any sort.  You get the warts and dirty laundry as it comes; that, along with the good stuff, is practically thrown at you rather than entrusted as you get better acquainted with an individual.

Transparency I can handle; honesty, that's a little tougher.

With transparency, it's all out there; you know what to expect.  It's simpler, though it's messier.  Plus it's similar to how I primarily function when I'm not paying attention.  I wear my emotions on my sleeve; I'm typically on or off in any given situation - there's no room for in-between, just chilling - again - when I'm not paying attention.

Honesty?  Well, that's different.  It's scary.  God is honest with us, but He's not transparent.  He doesn't lay all His cards out on the table; He entrusts with a little bit of knowledge, bit by bit.  And that's how it's to be in all relationships.

You don't lay out all your cards at once; you wait and see if the individual across from you is trustworthy, for each card is a piece of your soul being revealed.  How do you know that person isn't just going to take that piece of you and trash it?

Alas, I digress...

Honesty is more difficult than transparency because you can't lay out a map of how to predict the other person's behavior, you can't just categorize individuals and make the business of a relationship so easy to deal with.

People are people - not things to be put in boxes.  All areas of our lives bleed over into the other and back and forth, and vice versa, and so on and so forth.

I have to let people be people and that's scary because getting each successive card also takes commitment - it takes time and a commitment to share some of your self with this person.

It's scary on one hand because what if you commit yourself to a lot of time with this person only to find you don't like what you're finding?  Or regardless of if you like what you discover or not, you realize it just won't work; what then?

It's scary on the other hand because what if, card by card, piece by piece, you reveal more of who you are and then the other person decides he/she doesn't like what he/she sees?  The prospect of rejection looms over us all at some point.

So, what does that have to do with Blue Like Jazz?  Like I said, it's an honest movie.  The narrative doesn't play its full deck immediately.  But like when you get to know someone, bit-by-bit we learn more about it and I was thinking to myself, how on earth is this ever going to come back around to Jesus in a meaningful way?

In its honesty and candor, the filmmakers pull no punches as to what life was like for Miller in college, and they accurately portray the life of a statistically typical college freshman in all its drinking and debauchery and mischief - but never to the point of exploitation.  That is to say, there are no sex scenes (there's not even a kiss!), the cussing is realistic but not gratuitous, and one particular prank that is pulled...well, it's done and I was shocked.

Me - I was shocked at what I saw portrayed in the movie.  I was actually uncomfortable.  My self-righteousitis flared up and I found myself thinking, how on earth is God going to be glorified in this??!

Well, it all comes together in the end.  When the final scene started taking on its heft and depth, my heart was in my throat and I nearly cried.

The story makes me think of my own: raised in the church, lived as a naive Jesus Freak in high school, went off to college out of my Christian bubble and began to question my faith.  I went through my own prodigal years, my time of questioning and doubt, my time of pain.  None of that weakened my faith just as the first 7/8s of the film don't weaken the story; all of that is tinder for the fire of God's love - in my heart and in what's communicated in the heart of the film.

So, for the doubters, the philosophers, the seekers, the founders, the whomevers, I highly recommend this film.  It is enjoyable, it's fun, it's poignant, it's sad - it's a meaningful dramatization of the human experience.

And if you're like me, wondering what some of the songs in the movie are, the one that involves a bear and a bicycle is called, Bicycle Bicycle, You Are My Bicycle by Be Your Own Pet.

The song featured in the trailer and in the film when Miller hits his catharsis is called Taos and it's by Menomena.

So that's all.  Go see it.

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