My dad was barely 22 when victory was declared in the Pacific theatre in 1945. He saw some shit that he never really told me about—no vets from that war ever do. You had to be a tough guy to weather the constant showering of Kamikaze planes and the unspoken fears of a massive land invasion of Japan that would mean certain death... for both sides.
But there was a softer side to my dad, a caring loving side. When something touched him, he wasn't afraid to cry. He never made a big display of that fact, except once—I've forgotten the movie we had seen together (I was barely 10 at the time), but I distinctly remember him turning to face me after the lights came up and pointing at his cheeks and saying with a hint of a smile, "See that? That's me crying."
I thought of this because I saw Rent this last Sunday night and cried most of the way through it, not because it was so sad (although it was), but because it's such a great musical and also such a wondrous celebration of life. My wife said she cried for the entire last half hour, and while I wasn't a Niagara myself, I was still very excited to see all these great musical numbers come to life in cinematic form. Musicals are a weird, tricky medium—my friend Brian once said that, "Musicals aren't realistic", which I can understand, if not relate to—and if done poorly are excruciating to watch. Rent, however, not only has good music and poetry... but it's fucking good drama, too.
One of my favorite pieces of poetry from Rent is "La Vie Bohème". Unfortunately, you can't really appreciate how musically creative it is unless you hear it performed, but the words are still stand alone ingenious.
Here is a classic excerpt:
Bisexuals, trisexuals, homo sapiens,
Carcinogens, hallucinogens, men, Pee Wee Herman
German wine, turpentine, Gertrude Stein
Antonioni, Bertolucci, Kurosawa
To apathy, to entropy, to empathy, ecstasy
Vaclav Havel -- The Sex Pistols, 8BC,
To no shame -- never playing the Fame Game
It's between God and me
To S and M
La vie Boheme!
Okay, but look at one part of it again, but this time read the CAPITAL LETTERS with a stronger emphasis—all commas are now removed, but the line breaks signify longer pauses:
GER MAN WINE TURP EN TINE GER TRUDE STEIN
anTONiONi BERtoLUCCi KURoSAwa
CAR MIN A
BUR AN A
to apathy to entropy to empathy
VAC LEV HAvel
the SEX PIstols
to no shame never playing the fame game
Maybe I didn't get explain that well enough, but if you're intrigued and enjoy singing at all, then make sure you see Rent in a big theatre while you still can... some of the choral numbers will knock your socks off.