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Monday
Feb232015

Queremos tanto a Glenda

A short story ("We all love Glenda so much") by this Argentine. You can read the original here.

At that time it was hard to tell. A person may go to the cinema or theater, live the night without thinking about those who have already completed the same ceremony, choose the place and time, get dressed and make phone calls, line eleven or five, the shadows and the music, the land of no one and everyone where everyone is no one, the man or woman in his or her seat, perhaps with a word to excuse themselves for coming late, a half-voiced comment which someone catches or ignores, almost always silence, looks directed at the stage or screen, the howling from nearby, from this side. It was really hard to tell, over and above all the publicity, the endless queues, the posters and reviews, that there were so many of us who loved Glenda.

It would be presumptuous to claim that core membership took its shape three or four years ago from Irazusta or Diana Rivero since at the time, out for drinks with their friends after the cinema, they had no idea how they managed to say or conceal things that rudely forged a bond, what we, the core members and the youngsters, all later termed the club. I should say it was not much of a club; the only thing we had was a love for Glenda Garson. This was enough to reduce our numbers to only those who admired her. And just like they did, we admired Glenda, as well as Anouk, Marilina, Annie, Silvana, Marcello, Yves, Vittorio and Dirk, but we were the only ones who loved Glenda so much. This was how the nucleus or core was defined. Soon it became something that only we knew about and we trusted those who, in the course of chats and conversation, came to show that they loved Glenda as well.

Following Diana and Irazusta, additions to core membership were few and far between. The year of The Snow's Fire we must have been barely six or seven. Once The Use of Elegance debuted, core membership expanded and we felt that it was increasing almost unbearably and that we were threatened by snobbish imitation or seasonal sentimentalism. The first ones, Irazusta and Diana, and two or three others, decided to close ranks, to admit no one without screening him first, without a test hidden behind whiskeys and the braggings of erudition (those midnight exams were as much of Buenos Aires as of London or Mexico). When The Fragile Returns debuted, we had to admit in melancholy triumph that there were a lot of us who loved Glenda. We would meet in the cinema, exchange glances at the exit, the women's almost lost air and the men's pained silence a better indication of our confederacy than any insignia or password. Inexplicable mechanisms lured us to the same café in the center of town; single tables began to be put together; and all of this was accompanied by the polite custom of looking each other in the eye and ordering the same drink to preempt any useless skirmishes. And there we found the final image of Glenda and the final scene from the final film.  

There were twenty, perhaps thirty of us; we never knew how many we came to be because sometimes Glenda would be playing in theaters for months at a stretch, and at the same time in two or four. Moreover, there was this exceptional moment in which she appeared on stage playing the young assassin in The Enraptured, and her success broke all barriers and created momentary enthusiasm which we never accepted. Since we already knew one another at that time, many of us would visit each other to talk about Glenda. Initially Irazusta seemed to exercise tacit control which he had never asked for, while Diana Rivero played her slow chess game of approvals and refusals which assured us total authenticity without any risk of spies or fusspots. What had begun as a free association now attained the structure of a clan, and following the initial frivolous interrogations came concrete questions, the stumble sequence from The Use of Elegance, the final retort in The Snow's Fire, the second sex scene in The Fragile Returns. We all loved Glenda so much that we couldn't deal with Johnny-come-latelies or tumultuous lesbians, or those erudite men and women devoted to aesthetics. This included (we'll never know how) our taking for granted that we'd go to the café every Friday that one of Glenda's films was being shown, and that, to give us enough time, we'd move from one screening to another in the neighborhood theaters a full week before meeting up. This was a steadfast rule; obligations were defined without any vagueness; and not adhering to these obligations would have provoked Irazusta's disparaging smile and that pleasantly horrific look with which Diana Rivero would announce both crime (in this case, treason) and punishment. At that time our meetings were only Glenda, her luminous ubiquity emanating from each one of us, to whom quarrels and reservations were alien. Only gradually and at the beginning with a sense of guilt, a few of us dared slide in a few partial criticisms, some disaccord or disappointment in the face of a less felicitous sequence, slippage into the conventional or predictable. We knew that Glenda was not responsible for the weaknesses that clouded at times the splendid crystal-like quality of The Whip, nor the conclusion to We Will Never Know Why. We were versed in some of her directors' other work, the origin of the plots and screenplays; and when it came to them we were implacable because we began to feel that our affection for Glenda went above and beyond mere artistic territory and that she alone could save herself from what others did so imperfectly. Diana was the first to speak of a mission; she did so in that same tangential manner of not affirming what that really entailed, and we saw her double-whisky happiness and satiated smile and knew one thing was certain: we could no longer keep doing all this cinema and café routine, and we couldn't love Glenda so much.

Nor did we say anything clear at the time; that wasn't necessary. The only thing we talked about was Glenda's felicity in each one of us, and this felicity could only have been the product of perfection. Suddenly the errors and deficiencies became unbearable; we couldn't accept that We Will Never Know Why ended the way it did, nor that The Snow's Fire contained the infamous poker game sequence (in which Glenda did not participate but which somehow tarnished her like vomit, that Nancy Phillips gesture and the unacceptable arrival of the repentant son). As was almost always the case, it fell to Irazusta to define clearly the mission that awaited us. That night we returned to our homes as if crushed by the responsibility which we had just acknowledged and assumed, and at the same time we were beginning to see the happiness present in an unblemished future of a Glenda bereft of stupidity and betrayal.  

Instinctively, the core closed ranks. The task did not allow for an indistinct plurality. Irazusta spoke of the laboratory when it was already installed on an estate in the Recife de Lobos. We divided up the tasks in impartial fashion among those who had to procure every last copy of The Fragile Returns, chosen for its relatively minor imperfection. It would not have occurred to anyone to think about any money issues: Irazusta had been an associate of Howard Hughes's in the Pichincha tin mining business, an extremely simple means of placing in our hands the power, jets, connections, and financial sway we needed. We didn't even have an office; Hagar Loss's computer programmed the tasks and stages. Two months after Diana Rivero had spoken, the laboratory was equipped to stand in for the ineffective sequence in The Fragile Returns with the birds so that Glenda was graced with the perfect rhythm and exact sense of its dramatic action. The film was now a few years old and its re-release into the international circuit did not engender the mildest surprise: memory plays with its deposits and makes them accept its own permutations and variants. Perhaps the same Glenda would not have perceived the change and if she had, because all of us saw it clearly, she would have beheld the marvel of perfect coincidence with a memory rinsed of its slag, exactly identical to her desire.

The mission was carried out with no respite. Hardly had the effectiveness of the laboratory been assured when we began the salvation of The Snow's Fire and The Prism. The other films entered into the process with the rhythm precisely planned by Hagar Loss's staff and that of the laboratory. We had difficulties with The Use of Elegance because some people from the oil-rich Emirates had retained copies for their personal enjoyment, and certain measures and extraordinary collaboration were necessary in order to steal them back (there is no reason to use any other word), and replace them without the users' noticing. The laboratory was functioning at a level of perfection that, at the beginning of all this, we had thought unattainable – but we dared not say anything about this to Irazusta; curiously enough, the most skeptical of us all had been Diana. But when Irazusta showed us We Will Never Know Why and we saw the real ending, we saw a Glenda who, instead of going back to Romano's house, now drove her car towards the rocky cliff and ruined us with her splendid and quite necessary plunge into the torrent below. Now we knew that perfection could be of this world and that now this was Glenda's perfection forever, for us forever.

Of course, the most difficult thing was to decide on the changes, the cuts, the modifications of montage and rhythm. Our different ways of feeling and sensing Glenda led to some harsh confrontations that could only be alleviated by lengthy analysis and, in certain cases, the imposition of the majority of our core members. And although some of us, defeated, sat through the new version with bitterness in that the film did not in the end match up to our dreams, I still think that no one was disappointed with the work we did. We loved Glenda so much that the results were also justifiable, many times far beyond what we had foreseen. This included a few alarms: a letter from a reader of the never-missed Times amazed that three sequences in The Snow's Fire came in an order that he happened to remember differently; as well as an article from a critic of La Opinión who protested over a supposed cut in The Prism, concocting reasons of bureaucratic prudishness. In all these cases rapid measures were taken so as to avoid possible consequences. It didn't cost much; people are frivolous and forget or accept or are on the lookout for something new; the world of cinema is a fugitive like historical reality is a fugitive, save for those of us who love Glenda so much.

Much more fundamentally dangerous were the polemics that emanated from our core, the risk of a schism or diaspora. Nevertheless more than ever we felt united in our mission. There was one night when analytical voices infected with political philosophy were raised, and they discussed – in the middle of our work – moral problems; they asked whether we weren't deceiving ourselves in a series of onanistic mirrors, in engraving overelaborate madness in a tusk of ivory or grain of rice. It was not easy to turn our back on these voices because only our core members could carry out their work like a heart or plane carries out theirs, throbbing in perfect coherence. Nor was it not easy to hear the criticism accusing us of escapism, which suspected a squandering of deviant forces from a more pressing reality, a reality more needed for competing in the times in which we lived. But it wouldn't be necessary to squash this heresy hardly sketched even if its protagonists were willing to limit themselves to a partial reservation; all of us (they and we) loved Glenda so much that over and above the ethical or historical arguments, there reigned the feeling that would always unite us, the certainty that the perfection of Glenda was making us and the world more perfect as well. We were even splendidly rewarded by the fact that one of the philosophers reestablished the equilibrium after having overcome this period of inane scruples. It was from his mouth that we heard that every partial work was also history, and that something as immense as the printing press started out as the most individual and parceled out of our desires, that of repeating and perpetuating the name of a woman.

Thus arrived the day on which we had the tests for Glenda's image projected now without the slightest frailty. The screens of the world would render her the way she herself – of this we were sure – would have wanted to be rendered. And perhaps it was for this reason that we were that surprised to learn in the press that she had just announced her retirement from both the stage and the silver screen. Glenda's involuntary and marvelous contribution to our work could have been neither a coincidence nor a miracle, but simply something which she had obeyed without knowledge of our anonymous affection, and from the depths of her being came the only answer that she could give us, the act of love that covered one last handover, that which the profane would only understand as absence. We lived in the happiness of the seventh day, of the rest on the heels of creation; now we could see every work of Glenda's without the hidden menace of a tomorrow plagued with errors and stupidities. Now we could meet with the lightness of angels or birds in an absolute present which perhaps resembled eternity itself.

Yes, but a poet beneath the same skies as Glenda once said that eternity is enamored with the works of time, and it fell to Diana to know this and inform us a year too late. Usual and human: Glenda announced her return to the screen. And the reasons were the ones always given: the frustration of the professional with nothing but time on her hands; a role that was on her level; filming that was about to begin. No one would forget that night in the café after just having seen The Use of Elegance which had returned to the theaters of downtown. It was almost unnecessary for Irazusta to say what we all were experiencing like the bitter saliva of injustice and rebellion. We all loved Glenda so much that our despondency never reached her. What guilt did she have in the matter, being an actress and being Glenda? The horror was to be found in the broken machine, in the reality of figures and prestige and Oscars entering like an overlapping crack in the sphere of our hard-won sky. When Diana placed her hand on Irazusta's arm and said, "Yes, it's the only thing left to do," she was speaking for all of us without any need for consultation. Never had the core possessed such terrible strength; never did it need fewer words to set it in motion. 

We split up, devastated, experiencing what had to occur one day which only one of us would know of in advance. We were certain that we wouldn't be meeting up at the café, that henceforth each one of us would conceal the perfection of our kingdom. We knew that Irazusta would do what was necessary; there was nothing simpler for someone like him. We didn't even say goodbye as was our custom, with the fluffy security of seeing each other again after the cinema, that night of The Fragile Returns or The Whip. It was good to turn our back on all of this, under the pretext of its being late, of implying that we had to go. We left in our separate directions, each one bearing the desire of oblivion, of having everything consumed, and knowing that it wouldn't be so, that we wouldn't even be free of opening up the newspaper one morning and reading the announcement, those stupid phrases of professional consternation. We would never talk about this with anyone; we would politely avoid each other at the theater and in the street; and this would be the only way for the core to maintain its fidelity, to keep in silence its completed work. We all loved Glenda so much that we were offering her a final inviolable perfection. In the intangible heights to which we had exalted her we would preserve her from the fall, and there her faithful could follow her in adoration without incurring any harm. And she would never descend alive from a cross.   

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