I have always been plagued by a vague and sometimes even annoying sensation that I was born in the wrong era. We’ve all been there, felt that, wished for something other than what we are or have or see around us. It’s a form of cognitive dissonance that leaves us feeling unsettled and longing for what might have been or could have happened in our lives had we but been someone else in some other time.
Woody Allen’s latest, brilliant, and perfectly pitched movie, “Midnight in Paris”, crystallizes every grain of this desire in a way that only Allen can do, without the nebishy, whining nasality that is Woody Allen……almost.
Owen Wilson IS Allen, but with just enough distance and remove to let us relish in the quirky without being overwhelmed with the Woody as is the usual case, and in doing so I found a truth in this film and in my life that I have been searching for, for decades.
As a twenty something and maybe even before, I had such a strong sense memory of another era that I thought I was a misplaced soul, lost on some ephemeral, cosmic highway at an exit I had mistakenly taken into my boring and tortured current circumstance. It was called teenage angst, I’m sure, and it moseyed forth into the next decade of progression compounded by a little bit of cultural knowledge and some literary and historical perspective.
I just knew I would have been the perfect person had I been born 30 or so years sooner.
I really wanted the style of the 1940’s, the music, the clothes, the elegance and demeanor. I wanted glamour and manners and……….simply, more.
Don’t get me wrong, I got the 60’s!
Now, looking back, I was born into a generation that really changed the world and I was there, part and parcel of the package, partaking in its debauched revelry with as much abandon as anyone could muster.
Yet even then, swinging from the proverbial mescaline induced rafters, there was a longing for some lost me that could have been. Should have been? Might have been.
“Midnight in Paris” very neatly wrapped this lifelong antipathy into a neat and comprehensible gift that I can now open again and again and, in essence, reboot my resolve that I am in exactly the right place at exactly the right time and realize that the odd, very human, longing to be somewhere else in time is a universal truth, common to many if not most on the planet.
It is called imagination and it’s what has fueled creativity, productivity and most life forces throughout time. Songs have been written, books have been penned, great works of art have appeared thanks to the fertile imaginations of the masses who gave heed to their musings and through their compulsion to put them into their world, left us with treasures to fuel our own mental indulgences.
Because it’s Oscar time, I’m focused on the art of film and it’s curious to me that so many of this year’s films deal with exactly this topic; that of a magnetic yearning to the past, a refashioning of life into a confection of perfection.
Consider “The Artist”, another stellar gift to those who revel in things past. With hardly a spoken word or a drop of color, just enough to cause delight and surprise and a polish that burnishes the final product becomes an ebony and ivory masterpiece.
Maybe it is the times in which we now find ourselves, torn by wars and divisiveness and a harshness of natures not seen in our lifetimes that literally shoves our minds backward towards what we perceive to be a kinder yesterday.
Perhaps the creators of today are feeling the exact frustrations in the pulse of today’s world that compel them to create the palates of a perfect yesterday. In looking back through a magic mirror, maybe we can find the calm and serenity with which we can face the present and the future.
I hope this is so.