On Paris, nostalgia and realism
CHANNEL SURFING - Althea Lauren Ricardo () - September 29, 2011 - 12:00am

"That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me," writes one of the characters, a woman named Adriana. And if you see Paris as you see it in Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's latest film, you will most likely agree.

Owen Wilson is young American writer Gil Pender, and he is in Paris with his fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. As Gil rediscovers the city, nostalgia takes on a more tangible form: At midnight in Paris, the past becomes as alive as the present, and Gil finds himself transported into the 1920s, what he considers to be Paris' golden age, when you could enter a bar and find yourself in conversation with the Cole Porter, the Fitzgeralds, Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, and many other artistic greats.

There are several love stories in the film, but the greatest, at least in my view, is Gil's affair with nostalgia. One of the characters, a "pedantic gentleman," says of nostalgia: "Nostalgia is denial — denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is golden age thinking, the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in. It's a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present."

These lines first uncover the gaping crack in Gil's and Inez's relationship. Gil is a romantic, and he finds Paris to be a very beautiful and inspiring place. His dream is to be in the Paris of the 1920s. Inez, on the other hand, is a realist, and she can't appreciate what Gil sees in the city. Fed up with the quaint little streets of Paris, she says she wants to live in Malibu.

As the rift between Gil and Inez widens and widens, Gil decides to take midnight walks to the past by his lonesome, going back in time to Gertrude Stein, who becomes his literary mentor, and Ernest Hemingway, who advises him brashly on courage and love.

Here's one of my favorite quotes from the film, uttered by Hemingway: "All men fear death. It's a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven't loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears. Because when you are sharing your body and heart with a great woman the world fades away. You two are the only ones in the entire universe. You conquer what most lesser men have never conquered before, you have conquered a great woman's heart, the most vulnerable thing she can offer to another. Death no longer lingers in the mind. Fear no longer clouds your heart. Only passion for living, and for loving, become your sole reality. This is no easy task for it takes insurmountable courage. But remember this, for that moment when you are making love with a woman of true greatness you will feel immortal."

It's easy to see that the conflict that starts brewing in Gil had been there all along, ever since he decided to live in the United States and write film scripts instead of real literature, ever since he started making less brave choices and sacrificing his dreams. Inez, I suppose, stands for everything safe that he had chosen, safe and bland.

When Gil finally finds the courage to face his reality, he faces his reality, the good and the bad of it. His big realization: "That's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying." And accepting that, he enters his own personal golden age.

This conflict exists in me when I think of studying in the United States, where I have family and friends, and studying in Europe, where I have no one. The braver choice, the most inspiring, is the least practical. But perhaps courage is what I need to bridge the divide between me and my dreams? Yes.

Like Gil, I am often lost in nostalgia — but I've realized that it serves its purpose well. I am never satisfied with the present, and this unsatisfaction allows me to dream, and this dream helps me make life better. It brings me to my own golden age.

Email your comments to Alricardo@Yahoo.Com. You can also visit my personal blog at http://althearicardo.blogspot.com. You can text your comments again to (63)917-9164421.

ALRICARDO AS GIL COLE PORTER ERNEST HEMINGWAY GERTRUDE STEIN GIL INEZ ONE PARIS UNITED STATES
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