Page Two

Page Two
If those old MGM musicals were set in a real world, we all know that moments after Mickey and Judy screamed, "We know what to do, let's put on a show," they would dance off stage. The real work -- not the singing and dancing, but the booking, the arranging, the negotiating, the coordinating, the seat setting up, the lighting, the ticket-taking -- would be left to someone else, one of those smiling faces you never noticed dancing in the background. The Austin film scene has matured remarkably over the last decade to the point where, without laughing, it can be called a film scene. The activity level now is at an all-time high, and the support for independent film and independent filmmakers in the community is amazing. There are well-known figures on the scene, many names known to the general public. D. (Denise) Montgomery is not as well-known, but she was there from early on and is as important as anybody. In the early days, I always remember stumbling over D. in some basement or an attic as she ran the projector at a showing of experimental shorts, a Meat Joy show, some program of endless Super-8mm doodlings, or an American cult feature. If she wasn't running the projector, she was in the audience, but most often she was connected to the event.

Along with Rick Linklater and Lee Daniel, D. was part of the core group that ran the Austin Film Society in the beginning and kept it going, showing films whenever and wherever they could. When they made Slacker, she did sound and was the art department along with her friend Debbie Pastor. (Montgomery is in the movie offering Oblique Strategy cards to passers-by.) On Dazed and Confused, D. worked sets and she collaborated on both the Slacker and Dazed and Confused books.

Those are credits, the kind of credentials through which you try to prove a person's worth. D. was energy and she was light. I had a terrific crush on her. I think most people, men, women, and some children, did. She was decent and knowing but ethereally charged. She loved movies. She loved them because they were aesthetic works and she loved them because they were the stories of people -- D. Montgomery loved people.

She died on Monday. She had been battling cancer for a long time and it finally won. I hear that at the end she was serene and accepting, looking forward to the adventure ahead, still dealing Oblique Strategy cards, lying there with her beloved sister Judy next to her.

D. was someone I just always ran across, at screenings, at Whole Foods, in the street. We were comfortable in each other's presence. We had worked so hard and so long in the same neck of the woods, our paths crossed often. We would always talk for as long as we could, always talk about getting together for coffee or lunch but we never did. Sometimes, there were long talks at some event or another, one sweet night at Lala's with Quentin Tarantino holding forth in the next room we went on and on, catching each other up.

D. was a filmmaker but, as importantly, she thought in terms of "community," lending her energy and support to any number of different projects. Her effort bore fruit, a lot of what is happening today is owed to that early sense of community building. She will be missed for her achievements. More than that, though, was her uncommon energy, the low hum she was always on. She will be missed as a person.

Last night, I rented Slacker, just to watch, and to say goodbye to D. There she was, so beautiful and so completely nonchalant about it, words spilling out, ideas flowing forth, her body slowly unfolding as she became excited. I noticed that physically, she and Rick moved in distinctly similar ways, their bodies bearing the same kind of hesitant grace.

There is Slacker, the home movie of my generation of Austinites, so there will always be this piece of D. accessible at any time. Watching the movie, I realized that I would never bump into her again, never have that light go on. I can't help but think that at screenings and at the supermarket, I'll be seeing her out of the corner of my eye, feeling first the pleasure of her company and then the disappointment of realizing it's not her, for a long time to come.

Marjorie Baumgarten suggested I print Having a Breakthrough Day's (D.'s character in Slacker) big speech because it provides the perfect eulogy:

Okay, well, I mean, it's like I've had a total recalibration of my mind. It's like I've been banging my head against this nineteenth-century-type thought mode/constructs... human constructs. Well, the wall doesn't exist, it's not there. They tell you to look for the light at the end of the tunnel... well, there is no tunnel. There is no structure. The underlying order is chaos. Man, I mean everything is one big ball of fluctuating matter... a constant state of change. I mean, it's like across the great quantum divide is this new consciousness and I don't know what it's going to be like, but I know that we're all a part of it. I mean, it's new physics -- you can't look at something without changing it... anything. I mean, that's almost beyond my imagination. It's like that butterfly flapping its wings in Galveston and somewhere down the road it'll....

(to approaching friend)

Well, hey...

(completing thought)

...create a monsoon in China.

-- from Slacker by Richard Linklater

D. Montgomery (1961-1997) was a butterfly who mothered storms.

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