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Laughing in the Rain

Robert Moss
California Dream In: Robert Moss, prominent therapist and author of "Conscious Dreaming," channels his energy on a review of "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," now playing at the Nickelodeon.

Photo by Nicole Keys

Dream therapist Robert Moss finds charm and chuckles and a lot of Freudian symbolism in 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg'

By David Templeton

Metro Santa Cruz writer David Templeton invites interesting people to interesting movies in his ongoing quest for the ultimate post-film conversation. This week he sees The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in the company of esteemed author and dream therapist Robert Moss.

WHEN ROBERT MOSS went to bed last night in a Washington, D.C., hotel, he knew that he'd be waking up this morning and boarding a plane for San Francisco, where he would be met by an escort and ferried to a downtown theater. There, he would be met by myself, whereon we would see, he believed, a gritty little art film about a New York artist. What Mr. Moss was unaware of, as he slipped into R.E.M. sleep, was that these plans had changed. At the last moment, I had suggested an entirely different movie, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. His publicist, confirming the switch, updated his itinerary, which he would receive upon arrival on the West Coast.

"So then," he now relates, speaking in the mellifluent Australian tones of his birthplace as we gobble burgers following the show, "knowing nothing of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, and having no idea that I'd be seeing it with you, I went to bed and had the following dream. ..."

He pauses dramatically, takes another bite, then goes on. "I was involved with a willowy, Catherine Deneuve­type blond. It was quite a complicated dream. Much comings and goings. A seaport location. The key element that I remember--which made me think when I saw the change in my schedule--was toward the end of the dream. This woman who had been trying to attract my interest, or get involved with me or confirm a relationship, hugs me, and I develop fondly romantic and erotic interest in her, and she's pleased, and she says, 'It's because of the umbrella, isn't it?' "

Continuing, he says, "So this morning, recalling this, I tried the dream out on a couple of blondes I met in Washington, D.C., to see what umbrellas meant to them. No help there, though I did receive some fairly interesting looks. Then I got to San Francisco, saw my revised schedule and, of course, it said, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. "It was at this point that I began to wonder whether I had dreamed this viewing before it happened. You know, some shamans believe we dream everything before it happens, but we can only remember a small amount. I now suspect that this movie was in my dreaming.

"Isn't that neat?"

It certainly is. Moss is the author of numerous books and novels. The latest is Conscious Dreaming (Crown, 1996), a witty, remarkably stirring step-by-step guide to shamanic dreaming techniques learned from Aboriginal and Native American cultures. It's enjoyably eye-opening.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, first released in 1964 and now back for another go-round, is a delirious, one-of-a-kind delight, a fitting choice for Mr. Moss' comments because of the film's dreamiest elements: surreal use of color, outrageously contrived symbolism, earnest dialogue that is sung, not spoken. It stars Nino Castelnuovo and a very young Catherine Deneuve (surprise!), and tells a simple tale of two lovers parted by unfair circumstances, whose pledge of eternal love becomes muddled by fear. When each lover finally makes his/her decision, the result is gloriously bittersweet.

Moss loved it.

In fact, he chuckled non-stop through the first 20 minutes.

"I did, didn't I?" he confesses, not sheepishly. "Here's a situation where everyone is singing every line, including, 'I need to go to the men's room' and 'Please fill up the gas tank.' It's the kind of thing that would lead me to wonder if I were dreaming or not.

"Besides," he gleams, "I was laughing because it was so thoroughly campy and hokey and just funny. I was laughing because of the exuberance of the colors, you know, which were reminiscent of Miami Vice, and again, as in dreams, these colors were almost fantastically vivid. I was laughing a lot because of the Freudian gloss that was put on everything. We have the gas tank, the service station, the phallic nozzles sliding into the open gas tanks. The decanter of blood-red wine, held between the girl's thighs as she tells her mother she's pregnant. It was all great fun."

If The Umbrellas of Cherbourg was, in fact, not a movie but a dream that one of his clients had dreamed, would such symbolism be used to interpret the event?

"A Freudian analyst certainly would have," he replies, "and a Jungian therapist would use it another way. But simple interpretation is only one of many, many ways to look at dreams, you know. In dreams, we have access to a deeper and wiser way of knowing. Our mind is not limited to time and place. We can see into the future. The source of dreams is also the source of intuition, creativity and our deepest personal truths.

"The big problem in life," Moss adds, "as our lovers in the film demonstrate, is that when we are awake, we can sometimes see things clearly, but then we don't take any appropriate action. In dreams, we are led to take our waking perceptions and then to do something about them."

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From the October 10-16, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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