TALKING PICTURES:  LETTER MEN Image

TALKING PICTURES: LETTER MEN

By admin | September 4, 2003

“How much do you think this place paid out for all this Irish memorabilia?” 

“Good question! I look around, and a lot of this stuff looks like you could get it out of an Irish Pub catalogue!” 

“Yeah! www.FakeIrishPubDecorations.com!” 

Nate Gebhard and Mike Marriner are taking turns making loud jokes, shouting to be heard above the rowdy hubbub of a noisy Irish—or pseudo-Irish—pub. We’re right around the corner from the Sebastiani Theater in Sonoma, California, where Gebhard and Marriner just caught an advance screening of Claude Lelouche’s latest film “And Now. . . Ladies and Gentlemen,” screening as part of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival. “Gentlemen” is about an aging English jewel thief (Jeremy Irons) and a remarkably-depressed French nightclub singer (Patricia Kaas), each of whom is experiencing mysterious blackouts. They meet up, more-or-less by accident, in Morroco, and set out on an adventure during which where they talk about life, death, and the embarrassment of forgetting your song lyrics in the middle of a show. 

Gebhard and Marriner have been on a few adventures of their own lately, traveling the country in a big green RV, interviewing successful and colorful people—Supreme Court Justices, symphony conductors, Coffee company CEO’s—about their dream careers and how they achieved them. The result is a PBS documentary, a popular website (www.roadtripnation.com), and a new book, Road Trip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life (Ballantine, $13.95). Currently embarked on another tour to promote the book—and to score a few more interviews for future projects—Gebhard and Marriner, both in their mid-twenties, both young enough to still get carded when they walk into an Irish pub, eagerly agreed to take a break from all that self-promotion and go to the movies. They enjoyed the film, in spite of its twisted plotting, and Marriner especially enjoyed the performance of Patricia Kaas. 

“She was so hot!” he says, as the pints of Guinness arrive. 

“There are a lot of themes in this movie,” I shout out, “stuff about journeys and finding happiness, which are also the themes of your book—but instead of getting into all that, I want to pose the question that was asked in the movie. ‘If you had an envelope, and inside it was the date and time of your death, would you open the envelope?’ I think that’s a pretty interesting question, so let’s start with that. Would either of you open the envelope?” 

They sit silently for a few seconds, pondering the question. 

“I don’t know,” replies Gebhard. “On the one hand, by opening the letter, since you know the date you’re going to die, you can lead your life a little more by-the-day and by-the-minute, making the most of it, I guess. You can plan everything accordingly. But I want to say I would not open the letter, because otherwise, your life and the freedom of living would become too structured. “Hey. I’m dying on this day, so I’d better say goodbye to my parents the day before that, and I’d better have kids by this date or that date so they’ll be this particular age by the time I die. I think you might be tempted to work too far backwards and lose the flow of life. I don’t know.” 

“I definitely would not open it,” says Marriner. “Here’s why. After a lot of the interviews we’ve done, we found that life is not so much about the destination, as it is about the journey. Or it should be. By opening up the envelope, you end up focusing so much on the destination that it would take your focus off of the journey. I don’t want to know the destination. 

“We were on some radio show today,” he continues, “and the guy asked us, ‘Now that you’ve done all this interesting stuff, what do you want to do with your lives?’ We don’t know what-the-f**k we want to do, you know? Life isn’t about knowing what you want to do. It’s about taking it day by day, and having the right compass internally about who you want to be and what you want to do. We interviewed this professor guy, Randy Komisar, who wrote the book The Monk and the Riddle, and Randy Komisar says, ‘The path is only linear in the rear view mirror.’ I think that’s so cool, because there is no linear path. Control of the outcome is just a facade anyway, so why focus on that?” 

Gebhard is still thinking about the letter. 

“You know, I don’t think opining the letter would help you if you were going to die when you were 80,” he muses. “But if you opened it and discovered that you’re going to die in two weeks, then you’d probably go, ‘Okay. I’m going to make the most of these next two weeks.’ I think that’s the only time that letter would do you any good, to keep you from wasting your last few days.” 

“You should be doing that anyway!” Marriner says. “If you are doing that anyway, if you are living your life as if the next two weeks really mattered, if you were living with passion, you wouldn’t need to focus on that destination.” 

The importance of passion, it seems, is the primary life lesson what Gebhard and Marriner learned from their travels. When I ask if they ever thought about interviewing someone who, like Jeremy Iron’s character in the “Gentlemen,” is a criminal, Marriner says, “I think it would be rad to interview a thief! I think we should, whether he’s in prison or not. If he’s passionate about what he does. In the movie, the guy was insane at what he did, he was an amazing thief.” 

“To answer the question in a very circuitous route,” adds Gebhard, “I’d say that the only thieves we’ve ever interviewed, so far, were the people not living their own life. The people who are living someone else’s idea of what their life should be, who are living their parents life. Some people are thieves of themselves. They choose not to stand up to what they believe in, they tuck their dreams and passions away somewhere, away from their own heart, and they follow someone else’s path.” 

“What we’re all about,” says Marriner, “and what the movie is about, a little bit, is finding your own path. Writing your own script. Being true to yourself.” 

Discuss David Templeton’s “Talking Pictures” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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Writer David Templeton takes interesting people to the movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This is not a review; rather, it’s a freewheeling, tangential discussion of art, alternative ideas, and popular culture.

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