Photo courtesy of Annie Hamilton.
A Performance Diary: Summer
By Annie Hamilton
Annie Hamilton is a writer and performer from NYC who writes a seasonal diary for Metrograph, recounting her adventures and encounters across the city.
JUNE 3 - A PLACE IN THE SUN
I went to Metrograph to see A Place in the Sun (1951) during that week in June when it wouldn’t stop raining. I didn’t bother looking up anything aside from the time stamp; two hours seemed doable. I didn’t know it was a Montgomery Clift flick, I didn’t even know what Montgomery Clift even looked like. My payment for writing this series is a bunch of free movie tickets, that’s what I asked for it to be, so off I went.
I wondered who the good-looking man was: if he was a one-film-wonder. An American Claude Mann (of Jacques Demy Bay of Angels fame) I thought to myself, it makes sense that this is Mr. Montgomery Clift’s one movie, as he doesn’t have a smart face. His face looks like it doesn’t think at all.
To get myself to go see a movie in a theater these days, I allow myself one trip to the bathroom or one cigarette. I can cash in whenever I want, as long as I don’t walk out. I walk out of movies too much. If my mind starts to wander into replays of my sex life, I’m outta there. Too depressing of a highlight reel.
Needless to say, I didn’t go to the bathroom, I didn’t have a cigarette, and my mind did not wander. I fell in love with Montgomery Clift, maybe not for his academic presence, but for his recklessness. I’m not an educated film person. But I’ve been around enough buffs and hipsters and wannabes to assume that I’ve at least *heard* of most Good Movies. I haven’t seen a lot of these Good Movies, but I know how to talk about them at parties. My most profound movie-watching experiences have not come from recommendations, but from the act of “discovering” the movie myself. Picking a movie willy-nilly, not doing any research beforehand, going to see it alone—there’s a confidence that comes with surprising myself. The actual discovery of the movie is a big part of the film’s life changing-ness. I felt I discovered A Place in the Sun. No boyfriend had told me about it, no one at KGB had spouted off about it to me. It was mine. It was my movie.
A Place in the Sun, as I later learned, is a beloved Oscar-winning movie. And Montgomery Clift is no one-hit-wonder. As what happens with most life-changing art-viewing experiences, A Place in the Sun kept popping up once I had “discovered” it. Late one morning thick in a Mike Nichols doom scroll, I read him credit it as the film that taught him how to direct. He treated it like viewing bootcamp before shooting Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).
I hope that if you haven’t seen it, you might find yourself forgetting having read this, and months from now, stumble upon it one rainy week at Metrograph. I hope Metrograph starts playing A Place in the Sun regularly like it does Possession.
A Place in the Sun (1951)
JULY 6 - LINCOLN CENTER
My mom lives up by Lincoln Center, and when I lived with her two summers ago, I’d go to the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library to escape. Now that’s a library. All libraries should look as if The Breakfast Club could’ve been filmed inside them. It’s a perfect mix of New Yorkers as they were and as they are.
I became a sort of… Patron of the Arts… this summer. AKA, I know a girl who works in ticketing at the box office at Lincoln Center, and she lets me know when she has last-minute free spots—at the ballet, at the symphony, even the opera. I went to a whopping four operas this year. Not saying that I sat through all of them, but I went. I arrived at Medea on a motorcycle. I love going uptown on a motorcycle. It doesn’t happen often, and I can’t move my neck to look at the world when I’m on the bridge, but I’m working on that.
At the Met, I also saw Christopher Wheeldon’s Like Water for Chocolate, which was a maximally sexy ballet, so much so that it was hard not to harp on the child audience members. There was a Noah’s Ark-sized rocking horse that the ballerinas horsily grinded on, okay? I’ve never seen anything like it.
A friend was out of town on a job, so her fiancé and I sat front row at the symphony one evening (it would have been their anniversary present). It’s hard writing about performance. I feel like such a jackass doing it. I find myself using the same American adjectives over and over again: variations of “piercing!” “Mesmerizing!” I’ll go with “hypnotic.” The symphony was hypnotic. My thoughts became new. My thoughts found a different loop, what felt like the biggest shift of a loop in years. Why get a massage when you can go to the symphony?
I saw something at the symphony that moved me, that I can’t stop thinking about. At intermission a young boy (maybe eight or nine?) walked up to the stage, shaking, clutching his father’s hand. The father waved down the lead cellist. The boy introduced himself. He too is a cellist, and he wondered what it was like to be a professional one. This boy is an alien, I thought. His dream is to play the cello. His pure, unadulterated dream is to play the cello. My God. I don’t care about how many things we are doing wrong, I don’t care about TikTok. That boy was all the hope I needed to get me through the summer. There are little boys in NYC who dream of playing in the symphony. No matter how many phones are stuck in front of little faces at dinner time, there will always be a little boy whose personal rock star is the Lincoln Center cellist.
Photo courtesy of Annie Hamilton.
AUGUST 21 - LOS ANGELES DAYS
I went to hang with a close friend who is very, very busy. She said she could hang out with me as long as we’d both be working. I didn’t feel like working. So I picked up Joan Didion’s collection After Henry from the bookshelf. Didion writes about the 1988 Writer’s Guild of America strike in her essay, “Los Angeles Days.” It was refreshingly depressing and surprisingly relevant. The severity of our current strike is even clearer to me now.
All summer, I have only felt like reading things I’d already read. I also don’t feel like reading things that I’ve already read, maybe I should give up on reading in general. I’ve shat on Eve Babitz. How boring she is, how stupid she is, how big boobs do not a writer make. I shat on Eve for the same reason that I’ve never seen an episode of Succession. I don’t want to like what I’m supposed to be liking. I don’t want to become eligible to engage in the most trivial kind of conversation with the most unimaginative kind of person. See? I get angry about this stuff!
Turns out I’d been cheating myself out of a really great thing. My girlfriends have always described Eve’s writing as “fast” and as “fun.” I’m here to report that her writing meant more to me than that. I haven’t read anything besides the short stories in Black Swans, but from that, I want to suggest reading “Slumming at the Rodeo Gardens” first. I finished the last sentence, marked the page, closed the book, and plain cried. The story’s structure understands that the reader will predict the end from the start; even so, I never saw it coming.
Eve Babitz in the early 1970s, photographed by Mirandi Babitz.