For Kyle, who changed the movies I love

Mind the Gap

olivia-jerram

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I have seen “The Bourne Identity” — propped against an expanse of fake leather upholstery, wide armrests flanking me with their inset cupholders for residual sour sugar to collect in, sandy and sticky. Matt Damon whizzed through the filmic gauntlet in his 1989 Mini Mayfair MkV, while I bathed my teeth in neon shades of corn syrup.

As the credits rolled up the screen, I picked my way down the slippery maple colored staircase, molars aching.

I suppose having watched “The Bourne Identity” means I shouldn’t say I haven’t seen it.

I have also lied about seeing “Inception” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” “Inception” is a film plagued with everything my dad loved and my mom hated — “Moonrise Kingdom,” the polar opposite.

I watched “Inception” when I was about 12 — the guns were loud, and the IV in Leonardo DiCaprio’s forearm made me cling tighter to my middle school pal, hands cold. My mom furrowed her forehead and pursed her lips; my dad laughed out loud and sat forward in his arm chair.

My parents split up when I was 14, and I watched “Moonrise Kingdom” sinking into tan upholstery softened by months of movies. I rested my hand on my brother’s knee on my left and pretended that I couldn’t see the blonde bob of my dad’s secretary snuggled on his shoulder on my right.

With 11 shots of home-brewed tequila slicking his tongue, my dad breathed his disapproval of the film into my cheek as he kissed me goodnight.

I think my dad was afraid of what would happen if he admitted to himself that he didn’t want to be a father, so he papered over his drug experimentalism and his alcohol obsession with films, feeding them to me with a turkey-baster defiance — he filled the alternating Saturdays of my high school freshman year with the sort of belated introduction to cinema that should have been magical but was grounded in ultimatums.

It was easy to choose films at first — my dad liked action films, a la “Inception,” so we watched “Harry Potter,” “The Avengers,” “Spider-Man,” “Iron Man” and “Superman.” But Saturdays at his place fell into a reclining armchair sort of straightjacket — no Saturday could remain movie-less. “Moonrise Kingdom” cropped up on the Saturday when Marvel ran out.

I think I tell people I haven’t seen the movies my dad and I watched together because admitting to knowing a handful less of films is easier than remembering what it was like to watch them with someone who did so only because it convinced him he was loving.

The natural next step to saying you’ve never watched something is watching it for the first time.

In December, I was 18, and I was friends with Kyle (a former arts editor at The Daily Californian), so I watched “Inception.” Kyle loved “Inception” — it was important to him, so I wanted it to be important to me. I shut the door to my bedroom, and, with my mom in the next room, Kyle’s contact lighting up my phone and my dad a mile away in his own quiet house, I watched the IV prick Leonardo’s arm, the van plummet into the water and the hotel hallways spin.

Kyle’s excitement made my heart flutter. The movie was his — he sent me blocks of exclamation marks and little hearts, unwittingly coloring in magic marker hues over my tangle of nerves.

When the ending made me cry, he was there to text me.

In January, I watched “Moonrise Kingdom” with my mom and my brother — we sat in a line on her eyelet bedspread. My mom smiled at the scene with the French kiss and laughed at Sam’s raccoon cap. My little brother rolled his eyes at Suzy’s performative coolness but stared at her bra when she took off her clothes at the ocean.

Watching Wes Anderson’s film with people who didn’t immediately discount it is how I want to remember the film — popcorn-buttery and lamplit.

I want to think about “Inception” and feel the weight of the comforter over my knees, the little grey bubble hovering under Kyle Kizu while he wrote to me, Hans Zimmer spewing from my knotted headphones.

Rewatching movies under the guise of seeing them for the first time will probably always inevitably remind me of the time I first saw them, but it lets me try to redefine them — I won’t be able to replace the old memory, but I can decide to remember the newer stories and to feel a different way about the art because of them.

I have never seen “The Bourne Identity” a second time, and I don’t know when I will.

When I do see it — whoever I see it with — I want them to let me pretend I’m forming an opinion about it for the first time, so I have a chance to love it, the way Kyle showed me I could.

Olivia Jerram writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on experiencing art through other people. Contact her at [email protected].