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Film: It will come to me

By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES online October 2015

It will come to me, drawing by Henry P. Raleigh

In the 2013 Swedish detective TV series Wallander the lead cop is shown falling victim to Alzheimer disease, its tragic effects inexorably progressing over three of its last episodes. Directly confronting this current concern is an unusual way to wind up a TV series although film has early dealt with the issue openly in movies such as “Away from Her” and most recently in “Still Alice.” Reality triumphs over the Hollywood disease, that unnamed malady that had once done in many glamorous movie heroines so gracefully even attractively. Similarly filmmakers' commendable sensitivity have treated dementia, perhaps because it was unrecognized for what it was, as an amusing and common condition of the elderly. A typical 30’s film family would frequently include an adorable elder who kept all entertained with his memory lapses. Charley Grapewin and Patrick Cranshaw made their careers playing these roles in film. Come to think of it a typical 30’s family most likely did include an ailing senior but who was anything but fun to have around.

In a special tribute to Olivia de Havilland, the last remaining star of “Gone With the Wind” particular emphasis is given the 98-year-old’s phenomenal memory as she does herself, noting she can clearly recall her days as an infant. This may seem a bit of a stretch but it does go on record that while hearing and vision may have slipped somewhat memory is right up to snuff - an important asset for an actor.

Those ‘senior moments’ of yesterday, once no more than laughable blips on the journey through one’s golden years nowadays are more apt to be cause for worry. In the previously mentioned Wallander (billed on Netflix as Henning Mankell’s Wallander- there have been three versions) Krister Henriksson, the detective, in a medical test is shown seven disparate objects grouped together on a table. He is instructed to briefly study this before all are covered with a cloth and he is asked to remember what he saw. He remembers only two. Taken by surprise, I’m sure I remembered only one. I was unbelieving. I might say alarmed. I had been taken by surprise after all. I immediately rewound the show, for a good, say, more an honest look. And now, nicely nestled in my memory, are a ball-peen hammer, a pair of sunglasses, a cookie-cutter heart, a die, a fork, a pencil, a ceramic figurine of a cow. Well sir, I will certainly be ready should this kind of thing ever be sprung on me, I can tell you, even if someone switches the objects.

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