Not Just Any Wednesday

Of all the people who might have solved the great Star Wars dilemma, I would never have guessed it would be Inga upstairs.

A devout Lucasian ever since she accepted Lucas into her life in 1977, Inga had been in a tizzy for weeks, preparing for the Second Directorial Coming, scheduled for Wednesday, May 19, in the year 22 A.S.W. As it happens, Wednesday is the usual night for the local Lucasian service, a moveable rite which rotates among Inga and her fellow parishioners. It seemed an omen to them, therefore, that the special Millennial High Mass was also to be a Wednesday, and an especially important portent to Inga, whose turn it was to host the service.

She prepared her usual spread of white Norwegian food and red California wine -- from a vineyard, she noted with pride, "not all that far from where George lives." The plan was to chow down, attend the High Mass at screen 3 of the Fenimore Plaza Hellplex (screen 3 being the only screen much larger than a closet wall),and return to Inga's for a ritual celebration of the Forceness of the One, or the Oneness of the Fritz, or something.

Out of an invincible sense of neighborliness she invited me along, as she does, futilely, every Wednesday.

"But I know what you're going to say," she said. "You're going to say something snotty like 'I'd rather stick pins in my eyes.'"

Indeed. I would rather stick pins in my eyes.

"And I bet you won't even come up after the Mass and try my lutefisk. You'll say, 'I've made plans to stay home and set my hair on fire.'"

Hmmm -- lutefisk. Tempting. I considered my options.

"Besides," said Inga, "I'm going to screen my very favorite Star Wars movie on my big Magnavox and those great big speakers you sold me last year."

Damn. That was a deal-breaker. "Sorry, Inga," I said. "I've made plans to stay home and set my hair on fire."

Around quarter to seven, Inga and the other disciples came tumbling happily down the stairs, bubbly as a tub of Romulan ale. They roared off mallward in Inga's '84 Saab, eager for epiphany.

I watched an old Law & Order. Then Hardball with Chris Matthews (Do his guests ever get the urge to stick a sock in his mouth?). Then Larry King. Another Law & Order, this time a fresh one. Love that kickass new brunette.

Before Curtis and Brisco had even arrested a perp, Inga's Saab pulled up and parked out front. I listened for sounds of fulfillment, joy, grace. But the Lucasians were silent.

Squinting one-eyed through my front door, I watched them trudge mournfully up the stairs. In posture and expression, they looked like bishops who had just been told that Christ was only joking.

"Jayzuss," said somebody, deepening the gloom. "We waited sixteen years for that?"

As they filed into Inga's apartment, even their footsteps bespoke profound melancholy. They needed cheering up. I (an invitee, after all) would join them. But I would not gloat. I must not gloat. Not gloat. Not me.

Inga opened her door.

"It's a piece of shit, isn't it," I said, not gloating.

She said nothing, handed me a glass of Marin County red Zin, walked over to her VCR, inserted a tape.

An odd feeling flowed from my solar plexus through limbs, organs, brain -- a kind of effervescent tickle. It was happiness. I was happy. I was about to watch a Star Wars movie, and I was going to enjoy it. I would Mystery-Science it from first frame to last, and this roomful of dour, disappointed Lucasians would either grin and bear it or throw me out a window. Ecstasy.

Little did I suspect that there would, after all, be an epiphany that night -- not for the faithful, but for the grinning apostate.

Emptying my glass and forcing a throatful of gloat back downstairs for further fermentation, I missed the first sign that wonders and revelations were in store.

Onscreen, a silent legend had appeared, sky-blue lettering on black --

Il y a bien longtemps, dans une galaxie lointaine, tres lointaine...

Gabriel's, or John Williams', trumpets fanfared, and I turned to watch. Here is what I saw.

LA GUERRE

DES ETOILES

Episode VI

LE RETOUR DU JEDI

Luc Skywalker est retourne'

parmi les siens, sur la

planete Tatouine...

I sniffed my wine, which was, after all, from California -- god knows what's in the soil out there -- perhaps I'm hallucinating --

But, no. Familiar-looking characters came and went -- Luc and Yan, Z6-PO and D2-R2, Dark Vader -- chattering about L'Empire Galacticque and its Etoile de la Mort. Inga, god bless her great big polyglot Nordic heart, had managed to scare up a French version of one of the sacred texts.

I began to enjoy it. This terrified me until I realized what was happening. I was, for the first time, able to respond to the inventive camerawork and design, occasionally nifty FX, complexly layered sound tracks, all without the ruinous, smothering influence of the Auteur's ear-splitting way with words.

For all I know, the French could be as dismal as the English, or it could be Racine. The twin millstones of dialog and plot, now equally incomprehensible, became equally irrelevant. Gone were the Classics Comics "mythmaking," the insipid love chatter, the barrage of tuneless barbaric insults to the English tongue. Freed from these encumbrances, the film became an abstract audio-visual syphony -- not unpleasing, though long.

The Lucasians did not share my enthusiasm. They had expected succor after their ordeal at the Hellplex. They yearned to participate communally in the ceremony, to mouth the holy words in unison, in miraculous synch with the images unfolding on Inga's 52-inch Magnavox.

Do this they could not. Troubled they were. With joy I yodeled.

My mission is clear. A world lecture tour. In hand, a trunkload of tapes - Star Wars La Guerre des Etoiles, in every known language. Carefully assessing each audience, I will choose the tongue most foreign to them, and share the revelation granted to me.. Not since Vatican II has there been so bold an overthrow of liturgy. I will teach a new catechism. A new hope. Life will be good.

kjf, CineScene 1999