Am I In Love With Jane Campion or Just Afraid of Ending Up Alone

Jane Campion is sitting two rows behind me and I wonder if she would think I am a bad person. Or, if she believes people cannot be qualified, and instead would rate their actions as good, terrible, ok, or well-intentioned.

I wonder if she is an exceptional lover or if she has performance anxiety.

Is there a word for the special type of anxiety you feel when you are in bed with a new person for the first time and can’t decide whether to look at your body or theirs? I always end up looking at my own as if to ensure it made it to this foreign place in one piece.

I like the idea that two people trying to be spontaneous end up spending most of their time together worrying about how their own body must feel in new hands. Sometimes I feel like concrete, and other times I disappear completely.

The man sitting next to me in the red-velvet theatre seat described sex as being cool with other people’s mucus membranes. The man on my phone, 4,000 miles away, described love as waking up in clean sheets and drinking out of the same milk carton.

In one of my favorite movies that came out the year my mom was born (1950), Humphrey Bogart says to Gloria Grahame: “A good love scene should be about something else besides love. For instance, this one: me fixing grapefruit, you sitting over there, dopey, half-asleep. Anyone looking at us could tell we were in love.”

In a Lonely Place (1950)— dir. Nicholas Ray

I think Jane Campion would say that me in the red dress sitting next to this long-necked, perceptive man who has been wearing the same outfit every day since we met would make a good love scene, except for that we are not in love.

On the screen in front of me, a boy bites off the forearm of Colin Farrell and I want to know whether Jane cringed or has a strong stomach. I wish I could look back.

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My lower left shin looks like Colin Farrell’s forearm because two days ago I face planted down a flight of stairs at the Lumière in front of a packed theatre before a movie about Jean-Luc Godard, and the wound still has not healed despite a generous application of Neosporin. The man says the injury gives me a physical memento of the week we spent together, and I tell him I would take a fidget spinner instead.

When we talk, I think about the scene in Mike Mill’s Beginners when Ewan McGregor is talking to his Jack Russell, Arthur, about loss and fear and love and emptiness, and Arthur is thinking, “Are we married yet?” Most of the time I feel like Arthur.

Beginners (2011) — dir. Mike Mills

Ewan McGregor and I have the same birthday: March 31st. The man has the same birthday as Mike Pence: June 7th and his sister has the same birthday as Donald Trump: June 14. I tell him that just because he is a Gemini does not mean he is a bad person.

Here is a list of things I know to be true about the man: he hates the taste of ginger, he loves the film Stalker by Tarkovski, he grinds his teeth when he sleeps. We both only know astrology when it is relevant to us and we do not eat meat.

I would like to give Jane Campion a list like this (see above) full of pros, but I would bury one or two cons — like the fact that sometimes the man speaks in an NPR voice and liberally uses the adjective “Kafkaesque” — in the middle so she understands I am a realist, not an idealist.

I feel especially close to Jane Campion because my name would translate to Jane in Italian if it was spelled with a G, Gianna, and not a J, Jianna. It is spelled with a J because my parents thought they invented the name by morphing their own names, Jeff and Diane. According to that logic, my name should be pronounced the way my film professor likes to say it when he is handing back papers: jee-an-na. My professor is right and wrong.

Later that night, I will explain the spelling of my name to a woman from Michigan at a party full of very boring people with important names, and afterwards the man and I will dance to “When You Sleep” by My Bloody Valentine. I will talk with the uncertainty that comes with being twenty-one and will say, “Merci” to the Parisian DJ Cosmo when he turns on Frank Ocean.

Bilingualism makes you both an asshole and well equipped to be alone in a foreign place. I can’t decide whether I speak French solely because I fear dependency, or if I am just an asshole.

After one drink at the party, I will tell the head producers of the movie with Collin Farrell my best joke, “The only movie I saw worth remembering is the one with Agnès Varda,” and no one will laugh. The man will then tell them his best joke, “Who would you have killed if you were Collin Farrell?” and the head producer will reply, “My one-year-old,” without hesitation.

Agnès Varda and Jacques Demy

Partway through the movie when Colin Farrell’s son starts to bleed from his eyes, I wonder what Jane Campion thinks about Elisabeth Moss being a scientologist. My uncle Jim is a scientologist, which means he pays to believe in aliens, but my dad is cool with it because he says my uncle needs something solid and far off to put faith in. I believe in green apples, luck, and baking soda for getting out stains.

I only see Jane in full once, when the credits start to roll and the man and I turn around to join the rest of the 2,000-person theatre. Everyone faces the director and Colin Farrell and the boy who bit off Collin Farrell’s forearm with big smiles, real and forced. Jane and her silver hair stand there, like the rest of us, clapping.