Celeste

Celeste

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Murray Bernard was writing a movie script he was hoping to direct about a utopian society falling apart, set in the near future. While researching costumes on the internet, costumes for his movie, Murray scanned silent era photos of hundreds of actresses.

The stunning black and white portrait, glamour and screen grab photography excited him. Even though his movie was contemporary in tone, he was searching for an essence in body language and costumes to capture the audienceʼs imagination.

Of the many beautiful women alive and working, in the then new media film, generations ago, before grandmaʼs time, few are remembered. They all had lives, stories of hope, scandal, success, tragedy, happiness. Mention names of stars and heart throbs from his own generation and his teenage kids and their friends didnʼt have a clue. Thatʼs the way it is and will always be. Thank providence for the ever expanding cosmos of information available by a hunt and peck typist and the click of a mouse.

From 1918 through the 1920ʼs, womenʼs loose fitting movie dresses inspired freedom of movement, were sculptured, artistic, and evocatively styled. One can almost touch the women with oneʼs eyes. Florence Ziegfeld insisted his chorus girls wore the finest underwear so they could move with ease, feeling sexy and attractive.

Murray was excited. He felt he could realize and introduce the “look” he had in his imagination and the audience would immediately accept the visual language as natural. When making a movie the director creates the world the film will inhabit, and if its done with truth the audience will be captured. Thatʼs why movies need to be seen and experienced in a movie house, with lots of people mostly strangers, their attention span unimpeded. Nourish the audience and make them care about the hero and heroineʻs emotional journey and you have done your job. You have entertained and expressed a complete positive sensate experience.

Murray kept being drawn back to this one actress in 1919, Celeste Caja Pereault. Murray was convinced he found the “look.” He knew with the collaboration of a costume designer and a choreographer they could bring the women in his movie to glorious life. But something else was germinating in Murrayʼs mind and senses. Celeste had a quality that totally captured his inner self. He felt he was becoming obsessive in his search to find out more about Celeste.  He had to delve and explore deeply what this obsessive impulse was all about, he couldnʼt ignore it.

Many of the early actresses were artist modals as well as show girls before they came to the movies, so nude or semi nude shots exist of a few of them. He wasnʼt looking for sexploitation, or pornography. He found an extraordinary nude photo of Celeste, simple in its truth and beauty. He was captivated by her face, standing in front of a back drop naked, her body language and expression completely without strife. Her body was thin, her breasts small and she radiated an ease, a kindness, an enchantment that excited him. It was when you meet a new lover, some magical mystery envelops and you become compelled to copulate and having succeeded canʼt wait to do it again.

“Everything you feel by yourself can be expressed openly. Donʼt hold back.

Every time, she didnʼt shut the door. I spent a life trying to give her everything she wanted. We have a very good life.”

These were Murrayʼs inner thoughts about his wife who he loved deeply and who was away for long stretches, working. Both kids in university. Thank goodness for SKYPE.

Its easy to imagine satisfaction, sexual bliss, kind loving without judgement, the ability to say everything, openly, when one is talking to oneself, fantasizing. The experience doesnʼt take into account cause and effect, push and pull, the interaction of the other person. Interaction with another flesh and blood person is anathema to hermit bliss or despair. We are an organism that constantly responds to light, music, environment, speech, temperature, food, touch.  People need people. Every second stimulates by its very happening, evolving to the next immediate stimulating moment, nourished, repulsed, sad, happy, and so on.

Sitting alone at his desk, hearing sounds from the Beverly Hills residential street, feeling a pleasant breeze from his open balcony window, Murray thinks and types. More money going out then coming in, becoming swamped with obligations and the increasing inability to bail out faster then the incessant incoming tide. The projects arenʼt being bought, the phone stands sentry to financial loneliness and severe frustration. Emotional muscles becoming tighter, tenser by the day, affected, needing release, comfort, wishing the days on the calendar to slow down because each month is a new scramble for survival. How he got into this mess after much success is simply, he didnʼt take care of his money. He has a belief in himself that he still has worth in the market place, he is held in high regard by his peers, always asked for recommendations and advice and yet he finds himself constantly on the defensive, mending holes in his financial dyke.

And so Murray found an escape in Celeste. Was it an escape from reality or his creative mind writing a new script? Or was it something more powerful? He didnʼt know himself and accepted all concepts. The simple truth of the matter, she was real to him on whatever realm of existence she occupied.

He spoke to his friend Alan, a respected English psychic. Alan said Celeste was his Guide, the girl Murray made love to many years ago in his recurring young man dreams.

An overwhelming indelible dream experience that never faded. Joseph was also his other Guide. As a young boy, Joseph was Murrayʼs Guardian Angel. Murray and Joseph were inseparable until one day when Murray was about ten or eleven or twelve, Murray said he loved Joseph but had to go on by himself, he had to make his own decisions. And so on 76th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, Murray and Joseph said their tearful, wrenching, loving goodbyes. Now, Murray approaching the fourth quarter of the big game began a conscious relationship with his Guides.

Murray researched the life of Celeste, found out she lived a free life with the lovers she wanted, eventually married twice, no children, became a respected important poet and died on the day and year almost to the second Murray was born. This fact shattered Murray. He questioned if he was her reincarnation, not that he believed in reincarnation. No, Joseph and Celeste imparted, just a cosmic coincidence.

One particular night he was driven to gaze upon her nude photo. It was late, after the Dodgers lost and the Spurs won, after watching Jean Arthur in a delightful movie on TMC. He zoomed in on Celesteʼs photo devouring every aspect of her body until he felt ridiculous, spent, futile, wasted, pathetic and depressed. He shut down the MacBook.

Sometimes before lying down to sleep Murray turned on “Coast To Coast” or the PBS channel on the radio. Many times he woke up during the night with the radio still on. He left it on, as if to dispel the anxiety. It helped, as did reading, to keep the demons that shouted at him every real or imagined bad thing he ever did, as well as being worthless in the marketplace, at bay.

This night he didnʼt turn on the radio. After two red wines he was drowsy but still aware of himself, as if outside himself, at the side of the bedroom, viewing a fifteen pound overweight man take off his socks, get under the covers, remove a big reading pillow from under his head and toss it aside.

Murray closed his eyes. He relaxed enough to clear his mind and banish any demon attempt to provoke gut twisting thoughts. Murray learned how to clear his mind and not think. Itʼs one thing to think through a problem as if an equation, another to be bombarded by endless arrows of moments past. He was clear, free.

As the curtain of his eyelids descended, the velvety black temple of consciousness brought comfort. Then slowly the color red began to emerge, swirl gently, changed by a touch of yellow, and on the periphery changed again by a bit of purple. Murray surrendered to the colors. Then in the recesses of the deep vaporous hues a womanʼs face appeared, her lips moving but not audible. Slowly her features became distinct, alive, joyous, welcoming Murray into her realm. It was Celeste, not as the 1919 photo but as the girl in his dreams as a young man.

 ……………………………….

I asked my dear friend Murray in his new office at Warner Brothers, if he thought his experience with Celeste was simply his inner way of sublimating the emotional pain, loneliness and stress he was experiencing. His answer was perfect Murray. “Maybe, maybe not, but why would that matter?”

Murrayʼs movie “The Best Of Both Worlds” has been optioned. Itʼs a social comedy about a writer who has a loving relationship with his wife and a loving relationship in the other realm, when his wife is away.

Murrayʼs wife always knew Murray was a bit odd, and didnʼt mind his “other worldly” affair, although she didnʼt believe at all in Guides. She is however, very happy being out of debt and the university bills paid.

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