It's December of 1999. I'm days from turning seventeen, and it's the first Friday of Christmas break. I know of the just-released Magnolia because I know that it's the director's follow-up film to Boogie Nights. I know about Boogie Nights because, though I'm still too much of a naive drip to not be afraid of it, I've heard since its release that it's a great, important movie. And since I'm beginning to get more interested about seeing great, important movies alongside greatly entertaining ones, I'm eager to see Magnolia that night.
I go alone. I've begun going to the movies alone quite a bit recently, not just because I'm starting to get interested in the kinds of movies that many of my contemporaries are not, but also because filmgoing is becoming more and more of a personal experience for me.
It's a packed house, likely full of people who have gone to see Tom Cruise and so are not entirely sure what to make of the experience three-plus hours later. For an impressionable, late-blooming seventeen-year-old really just now beginning to come of age personally and creatively, it is the first shot across the bow of my cinephile innocence, the beginning of a major paradigm shift.
I wish I could say that Philip Seymour Hoffman stood out to me in particular on that viewing, but that is a claim that would be colored by hindsight. Truth be told, I wasn't familiar with Hoffman at all at that point. He was no more to me than the wacky fat guy from Twister, if I even remembered him from that. That kid who wept along with Phil Parma on that cold December night had not only a burgeoning filmography to go back and catch up on, but an entire lifetime of future performances to look forward to.
Now I envy him.
I'm currently re-watching Magnolia, and it occurs to me as I watch a scene between Jason Robards and Philip Seymour Hoffman that now, both of these men are dead.
I don't think there are words for a loss this upsetting, this tragic. The work can, and always will, speak for itself, and I'd prefer to let it.