Clouds Illusions I Recall
I’ve never been a Joni Mitchell fan. I never got her back in the sixties. Never listened to any of her songs all the way through, and I certainly never purchased any of her music. So, when I watched the re-emergence of her singing Both Sides Now at the Newport Folk Festival a few weeks ago, I couldn’t figure out why I wept through most of it. I loved it. Watched it a few times.
Film has always been the doorway to my own soul; most of what I know about my inner peace and personal conflicts is unleashed first in someone else’s experience on the screen. When I leave a theater, I can often see something of my own life that I missed until then in what I watched on the screen. There is comfort and safety in self examination after a film I think. Like you have a comrade or friend sharing the same experience.
I started to think about Mitchell’s music’s role in film, which I realized in that moment was substantial. Both Sides Now through film becomes a different tune to what she sang in the seventies.
The first that came to mind was You’ve Got Mail, which I have watched over the years - I don’t know, maybe twenty times? There is a scene where Tom Hanks is responding to Meg Ryan saying she could never be with a man who has a boat, and of course, he has a boat. He knows she loves Joni Mitchell through their correspondence online which she doesn’t know is really him. He hits back. “I could never be with someone who likes Joni Mitchell. It’s cloud’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all. Is she a pilot? Taking flying lessons? It must be a metaphor for something…” Yep, what he said, was my thought.
Then I thought about the scene in Love Actually, perhaps the most wrenching scene of all, when Emma Thompson has received a Joni Mitchell album, which exposes the fact that her husband is having an affair, and she goes upstairs to cry so no one in the family knows her pain. I think it’s the strongest scene in the film.
“Hmm,” said I to myself.
And, then I thought of another. Yep, yet another. Kristen Scott Thomas (a highly under-rated actor if you ask me), dances with her ex who has cancer as the sun sets, and it’s not sad really, just thoughtful. Life as a House didn’t get much fanfare, but it’s a great scene.
But perhaps my favorite is from Coda, the academy award darling of a few years ago. Our protagonist sings Both Sides Now in an audition and signs it to her deaf family also in the audience. Don’t miss this version.
Wow. I do love Both Sides Now.
I couldn’t shake how I could have missed it in my teens. I love that song. Who knew? I went to You Tube and watched numerous versions of Joni Mitchell singing it back in the day.
“Ah ha,” said I, after watching three more of her performances of the song from the seventies. I didn’t get it back then because I had no life experience that let the words sear my soul. In my defense, I’m not sure she did either. When you compare her performance at the Isle of Wright Festival in 1970 above with her performance at the Newport Festival, I think both Joni and I have had a lifetime of looking at clouds from both sides.
And, what a ride it’s been. And, what a gift that Newport performance is in taking a moment to appreciate how damn lucky I am to have the memories and life journeys that have made me able to appreciate the sentiments of which she speaks.
But now it's just another show
And you leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know
Don't give yourself away
I've looked at love from both sides now
From give and take and still somehow
It's love's illusions that I recall
I really don't know love
Really don't know love at all
Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say, "I love you" right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I've looked at life that way
Oh, but now old friends they're acting strange
And they shake their heads and they tell me that I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained
In living every day
I've looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know life at all
By the way, if you love film as well, you might want to check out Screen Thoughts. I review films on You Tube and our weekly podcast. I’m Hollister. Hope you will check it out. - C.