Monday, January 16, 2012
Authors Deserve A Midnight In Paris
In this film, Owen Wilson is a romantic and nostalgic writer, who wants to savor his experience in Paris. Yet, his practical and materialistic fiance disrespects his artistic yearnings. So, he escapes the unsatisfactory here and now, when he is picked up at midnight by Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Their horse-drawn carriage transports him to a Golden Age Paris, where he meets Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, T.S. Eliot, Henri Matisse and other artists, plus a bombshell blast from the past to rival Hiroshima, played by Marion Cotillard. Ohhhhhh Marion!
If you like viewing our flawed world through the warm light of Rembrandt or the rosy glasses of Louie Armstrong as I do, this is your movie. Watch it with a sip of port and a chocolate truffle - not Beyonce, she's mine. The film offers a delicious taste of the Golden Age, before bringing us back to the reality that every age is a golden age, which people will look back on in the future. We prefer to believe the present is a little unsatisfactory, because life is a little unsatisfactory, and we don't wanna believe that.
The movie notes profoundly: "the problem with writers is they're so full of words." Yet, this is also an author's greatest strength, because words seldom equal reality but often help us rise above it. Midnight In Paris is a self-esteem boost for artists, letting us once again feel superior to less-intelligent cultural-neanderthals who hold a job, a mortgage and their liquor. God knows we artists need and deserve such a boost. Yet, it's not a deeply-spiritual encouragement but a self-compared-to-somebody-else-esteem-boost. Seems we humans are seldom capable of hoisting ourselves up without shoving someone else down.
For half a century, Hollywood implied that goodness would prevail, once we got rid of those nasty Mississippi buggers looking down on black folks. However, wiser people than Michael Moore knew that the problem wasn't white men but dark-hearted mankind. How many of us have boosted our self-esteem by comparing ourselves to hateful, ignorant, toothless Klansmen? Talk about grading on a curve! (How many modern travel authors can't come up with much to say without smugly bashing America?)
Many idealistic voters are now losing their psychological virginity, discovering that the first non-white president isn't the Messiah. Some will no doubt soon realize that the beloved Morgan Freeman isn't actually God. Blasphemy I know! When we finally elect a woman president and see her imperfection, let's hope mass hysteria doesn't break out. Accepting humanity's inglorious place in the universe isn't easy.
Accepting our individual ingloriousness is also tough. It's astonishing to see the lengths we authors will go to in getting our names into print. We often work for free to chisel our names, not in granite, but in digital light-pulses like this site. It's even more astonishing to discover that most of the writers/typers are doing so while cooking food and parenting children. If the two most important and indispensable activities on the planet can feel routine and unfulfilling at times (which they can), what hope is there in finding true fulfillment in lesser pursuits? Probably none.
Cooking, parenting, farming, teaching, writing, painting, drinking, screwing - it's not about what we do but who we are, and whether it's Midnight in Paris or midday at the office, that's what we're all here to find out. Being a great artist is good; being a good person is great.