Funny how two of the movies that are in the running for the Best Picture at the Academy Awards – “The Oscars” – are throw backs to times long since gone. The Artist is a silent film shot entirely in black-and-white as it explores George Valentin’s angst at the arrival of the “talkies.” Midnight in Paris is a modern day film, but is it? Suddenly we’re in 1920s Paris. Or are we? Is that Cole Porter? Hemingway? Carla Bruni? Wait – Carla Bruni?
Tonight’s Oscar gala reminded me of a photograph of mine. A photo of the artist in Paris. Perhaps an artist to be remembered some time in the future, but an artist nonetheless.
The girl seemed to be about 10 or 12 years old. She diligently worked, unperturbed by the tourists who stopped to photograph her openly – and perhaps critique her work privately. As the overcast sky threatened to send us all running for shelter, she began to flesh out Notre Dame de Paris while its imposing Gothic presence entranced all comers.
After five trips to Paris I feel as if I can play tour guide to its major attractions, and yet also feel that I’ve only begun to sense its culture. Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the funicular railway ascending the hill to the magnificent Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Sacred Heart), the Arc de Triomphe, and tour boats on the Seine – all are familiar to me. What is missing is the aura of the time when the wonderful artists of the past livened the streets and studios of Montmartre – Dali, Modigliani, Picasso, van Gogh, Camille Pissarro. Ah, the life they led.
Getting back to the Oscars, just tonight I watched Midnight in Paris, the modern day movie by Woody Allen that takes us back in time and regales us with the music of Cole Porter. In a way it felt like Forrest Gump for the artistically acquainted. I’m rooting for it to win Best Picture and will update this post after the announcements are made. The money seems to be on The Artist taking home the big prize though, at least according to all those folks who claim to know these things.
Either way, I’ll always have the artist in Paris, even if it wasn’t really midnight at the time.