Sunday 21 January 2007

Eulogies for Altman

A Prairie Home Companion was director Robert Altman's last film. He seemed to sense his own impending mortality. A number of lines in the film confront the prospect of death with an admirably uplifting philosophy. I don't always think of death as a bad thing. People elegize instead of eulogize; mourn instead of celebrate. True, I've never suffered the death of someone really close to me; but one day I will, and I hope I will be able to deal with it in proportion. Births are not a miracle (they happen every second); deaths are not a tragedy when a life has fulfilled its potential; and even potential cut short can be full of beauty in its own way because it will always remain a possibility rather than a failure. Death is the only certain thing about life.

Thus in A Prairie Home Companion the angel/femme fatale (played by
Virginia Madsen) says:

"There is no tragedy in the death of an old man. Forgive him his shortcomings, and thank him for all his love and care."

And when an old man dies waiting for his lover to come and GK refuses to acknowledge it during the broadcast, the following conversation occurs:

Lola Johnson: What if you die some day?
Garrison Keillor: I will die.
Lola Johnson: Don't you want people to remember you?
Garrison Keillor: I don't want them to be told to remember me.

Hear, and indeed, hear.

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