Saturday, February 11, 2012

Midnight in Paris

This is the best movie I've watched in the past 6 months. No joke. I am not a professional movie critic, and I'm sure that some critics could find some flaws with the movie - technical flaws, cinematography, etc. And when I think about it, the acting was pretty flat and one-dimensional for several factors - this is certainly not Rachel McAdams' finest film (and not just because she played a horrible, unlikeable bitch). Actually, I kind of think the one-dimensional acting was on purpose - to show his current and real life is flat, non-magical and unsatisfying.

But as far as a movie that hit me in just the right way at just the right time, this is a bull's-eye. For one thing, I happen to agree with the main character, Gil Pender, that the 1920s in Paris might just be the most magical time in literature - American literature at least.

I'm an unabashed Jane Austen fan, but running a VERY close second behind her is Ernest Hemingway. While I love Jane's playful, complex and multi-layered writing, I might love Hemingway's bare, stark, straight-forward writing even more. (By the way, that doesn't mean Hemingway's writing isn't layered and complex). Here's Hemingway (on the left) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (on the right) circa the 1920s:

How wonderful those evenings in Gertrude Stein's apartment must have been. Actually, if I'm honest with myself, I would probably be bored and annoyed with all the snobbery - especially about art. But imagining a time where Hemingway and Fitzgerald were drinking all over Paris and France gives me goosebumps. I have read Hemingway's memoir of that time, "A Moveable Feast" at least 4 times, and I'm definitely breaking it out again - probably tonight. Here's Gil with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein from the film (pretty good casting, right?):

This movie totally mirrored my favorite thing about literature and reading in general - leaving your own life and imagining yourself as part of another world, time, place, etc. I like closing a book and feeling that jarring sense of coming back to reality. It's not often that a book can really transport me, but the ones that do are my favorites. "A Moveable Feast" is one of them. So is "Pride and Prejudice," which I've read so many times, I feel like I'm part of the Bennet family. Another random book that does this for me is "Valley of the Dolls." These are my go-to comfort books.

But Gil's insight in this film is also brilliant, and really hit home for me: even if you dream of and long to exist in another time period, another country, another place, with other people, etc., it's nothing but a wish to cowardly escape your own life. And if you were so lucky to be able to live life exactly the way you dream it, life would eventually become unbearable there too. Because a person who is always dreaming of something else, or someone else or somewhere else will never be content with anything. The trick is to take life as it comes, and to have the courage to live it on one's own terms - not the way anyone else tells you that you should.

Duly noted. I am very happy in my life - I'm happy with choices I've made, because they've all been my choices. I have a wonderful spouse without whom I wouldn't want to survive. I have a family that loves and supports me always, even if my choices aren't the same choices they would make. I am about to start an interesting new job. I live in Southern California where it never snows and where the sun shines almost all the time. I am content and don't really want to give any of that up. I'm very grateful for all I have. However, in the meantime, I'm still going to allow myself moments of escape and dreamlike surrealism. That's part of what makes my life so wonderful.

This isn't Paris, it's Toulouse, but it's from my most recent time in France - summer 2009. I think night pictures in cities are so much more interesting, right? Off to bed now. Sweet Dreams!

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