by Ed Barrett
Mary, after years mourning Jesus, plots revenge on his Roman killers as Marion Cotillard in The Dark Knight Rises won’t forgive Batman for killing her father in between fits of sleep on my flight to Shannon with thanks to Xanax.
When I land at Shannon I like peeing against the porcelain slab covering the lower part of a wall in the “Gents,” its sinks on little islands spaced far apart in the middle of the room, changing booths along another wall; even a shower. Someone understood human filth and dignity when they designed this toilet, better than the men’s room at Legal Seafood in Harvard Square where urinals are like oversized eye-wash cups, two measly eye-wash pee-cups separated by a divider the size of a bat wing, 10-inch video screens above them playing ESPN highlights, grainy pixels, blurry images and video-feed lag times, brush strokes of color in a miniature Renaissance painting.
Mary can’t be played by Marion Cotillard because she’s too attractive. I’d want an actress like Susan Hayward with her later, weathered beauty. She resembled my mother and her sisters and half-sisters whose youthful beauty, when they’d look into a mirror, must have felt like something they at least could claim in a life of the usual movie plot of poverty, abuse and drink. Ida Lupino would be perfect even though I can’t watch her because she puts me into a mild depression like other movie and TV stars too numerous to name: Chaplin, Rod Serling, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dionne Warwick, Art Linkletter, The Peter Gennaro Dancers on The Ed Sullivan Show, Ed Sullivan, Jimmy Durante, Red Skelton, Don Wilson, George Gobel, Peggy Lee, Robert Young, Donna Reed, Dale Evans, Buddy Ebsen, the later Dick Van Dyke, the sons in “My Three Sons,” Katie Couric, Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Bacon, Pinky Lee, Topo Gigio, Ben Affleck, Merv Griffin, and especially Ronald Coleman who never makes eye contact with co-stars; he’d be good playing Pilate, not asking anyone in particular “What is truth?” as he leans over a basin of water to wash his hands, shot from behind, his face mirrored on the surface of the water, looking into his own eyes.
And what’s so blasphemous about showing Mary’s love for her child as a revenge story? Bill Donahue’s Catholic League will attack the movie. Some nuns might defend it. Mary doesn’t get her due, spiritualized, objectified. My pitch is based on a medieval legend that Jesus was conceived when Mary had an affair with a Roman soldier and Jesus spent his life trying to forgive his mother, his desire not to forgive her sin eating into his will to forgive her, desire holding the mirror up to theology. The point is, he inherited this conflict of needs and will from Mary struggling now between avenging or forgiving his killers, her arms spread out at her hips, palms up, the hem of her blue robe as it opens onto white pebbles strewn in confusion at her feet in a Brooklyn garden.
Like a lot of things in Ireland, Shannon Airport can’t support itself and is up for bidding to developers, probably rich Russians because Shannon has had a longstanding partnership with Aeroflot as an Atlantic stopover, government deals a kind of grace, US troop transports secretly refueling at Shannon from Iraq and Afghanistan, soldiers bigger than life in desert camo walking through duty free shops against windows that give on to postage-stamp size green fields, avenging archangels drained of eggy Renaissance reds and blues, their khaki-colored combat boots the color of Gerritsen Beach sand and landfill, the canal at high tide, blue claw crabs on pilings as sea water splashes up between dock boards, waterfront Brooklyn where Irish and Italian NYPD and firefighters live in affordable cottages they winterized, boat bar-hopping from The Tamaqua to The Wharf on Far Rockaway in center-console power boats juiced with 200 hp silver Honda outboard engines, their flared white fiberglass hulls full of grace and the fruit of design software belling out saltily across Jamaica Bay.
“Gerritsen Beach” is a good title for my movie about Mary.