To paraphrase Dorothy Parker upon her return to her New Yorker column after a long absence, maybe you just thought I was out in the ladies room this whole time, but there’s no truth to it. I was off having fun overseas on a not-quite-spur-of-the-moment burst of off-season travel to celebrate a loved one’s return to health after a serious illness. It was a great vacation filled with pasta and gelato (in Italy; specifically, Florence and several Tuscany towns) and tea (in London) and art (everywhere), and I often felt like Miss Lucy Honeychurch (Helena Bonham Carter) in “A Room with a View,” minus the hats. I watched the Merchant/Ivory movie the other day upon my return, because much of the first half is shot in Florence, and the Piazza della Signoria (the central square in which Lucy buys postcards — and I did, too) looks today remarkably like it does in the movie, set a century ago, as Ivory carefully positioned his shot to avoid the Chanel store.
Otherwise I haven’t done much movie watching in the last three weeks (though I did reread a lot of E.M. Forster), but there was one beloved movie that, mysteriously, seemed to follow me on the trip. In Florence on a rainy Sunday morning two weeks ago, I walked through the square behind the Duomo and heard something both unusual and familiar: an instrument that I couldn’t identify, playing a tune I knew by heart. It was an old man, standing outside a restaurant playing what looked like a small, battered accordion, and the song was “Over the Rainbow.” A week later, in London, I watched a friend’s 3-year-old daughter (a lovely kid who speaks in the plummy tones of a junior Masterpiece Theatre narrator) mesmerized as she viewed a DVD of the movie for the umpteenth time, her lips moving as she recited along with favorite scenes, living the journey with Dorothy (pronounced “Dossey”). She would later entertain us, several times a day, by dancing rather seriously around the dining room table, basket and stuffed doggy in hand, to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road.” And now, back home, I see that “The Wizard of Oz” is back in theaters tomorrow, for one night only, letting us all travel to the Emerald City and back again.
Maybe there’s just something about “The Wizard of Oz” — and the way little Judy Garland makes “Over the Rainbow” forever new — that speaks to all of us, wherever we are, however young or old. Maybe there really is a place where troubles melt like lemon drops — and maybe there really is no place like home.
It’s nice to be back in my own Emerald City. So, tell me what movies I missed. What have you seen and liked in the past few weeks?
(“The Wizard of Oz.” Credit: AP Photo/HO, Warner Bros.)