In June 2011 I was leaving the cinema feeling delighted, in the company of my good friend Ana, after watching Midnight in Paris. I just watched it again a few days ago, on my own this time, and my enthusiasm afterwards was exactly the same (I did think of my loving friend, who is very far away physically but I probably haven’t felt her so close before). Two and a half years ago I I left the room surrounded by a dreamy mist, feeling cheerful, optimistic, creative, really well and with a very strong desire of visiting Paris.
I must start by saying that I cannot be impartial when talking about Woody Allen because I simply love his work. As my cinema-going brother says, even Allen’s worse films are actually good films. It does not matter if they are serious or comical, if he plays the main character or projects himself on the screen. His stories always make me laugh, think and feel all at once. I enjoy his sense of humour, his sharp intelligence, his world’s and people’s view. His is a peculiar point of view that drifts away from the most common perspective to show me unlikely and very unusual angles which are always so truthful and realistic at the same time.
Gil, the main character, is a regular script writer in Hollywood who strives to become what he always dreamt to be: a novelist. He is visiting his adored Paris with his fiancée and one evening, he is wandering around the city on his own, lost in every sense. When a nearby clock strikes midnight, due to some kind of magical and inexplicable causes, a car passed by and its passengers invite him in. During that journey he is transported somehow to the Parisian 20’s, attending a marvellous party where he shares Champaign & impressions about literature, life & love with the genius artists who lived there at the time. Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, Dalí, Picasso, Belmonte, Cole Porter, T.S. Elliot… He even gives a copy of his original to the one and only Gertrude Stein, who is more than happy to share her expert and revealing opinion with him.
The whole plot feels truly wonderful to me, including his eternal doubts, the duality between what he feels and what he does, the way his inner conflict rises up as his day dreaming experience develops. A dream that, paradoxically, becomes the most genuine thing he had ever experienced. Don’t we live like that sometimes? Fantasizing with an ideal future, imagining an idealized surrounding that we never dare visiting. However, reality is right here, within reach, in this present that we go through right now, and it is ready to be shaped. It is available & devoted to us.
I also find wonderful to imagine what I could learn from a conversation with those creative talents, from a journey throughout that time and place, like Gil does. Then I wonder who I would like to meet or to which period would I chose to travel to if that magical moment was possible.
I can think of Poe straight away. I could sit with him next to a fire on a huge and gloomy armchair, sharing a bottle of red wine and listening to mysterious stories until the sunrise, feeling that intense fear that keeps me alert & awakes my senses, just like I felt when I was a teenager and I used to read under the blankets that tale about a sharp pendulum, swinging down and coming closer to the fragile & terrified body of the protagonist.
I would have breakfast with Audrey Hepburn to start my day with the most natural and beautiful smile of cinema. I would listen to her stories about cinema & life, love & maternity, social commitment, illness & hope. I could have lunch with Bécquer to ask him about his trade as a romantic young writer. After lunch I could spend some time with Cervantes and his ups and downs. In the evening, Francisco de Quevedo could guide me from sharp and hurtful irony to the roughest love and human soul depths.
I could also cultivate my spiritual needs by meeting Jesus, maybe on the day he expels the mean merchants from the temple. Back in a dark Spain I would seek an audience with Saint Therese of Jesus, who was so present during my school years. And then I would travel to a country that fills my soul & my heart with warm emotions, to meet Buddha the Enlightened, to get nourished by Gandhi’s teachings, Mother Theresa’s unconditional devotion and Vicente Ferrer’s unlimited love & respect for human beings.
After such a trip I would come back feeling stronger and very happy, imbued by all those lively and devoted spirits, knowing much more about myself and about life, feeling more awake and real than ever before.
Which places would you travel to and who would you like to share your time with? Which doubts would you wish to clear and what realities would you like to create?
There is a space where we can make come true these encounters & travels, and that space is our imagination. By visualising we can travel distances impossible to cover in any other way; we can find answers to the questions that worry us and that seem secretive here & now. Visualise is a very efficient tool that allow us reveal genuine sensations & emotions in the present moment that can also throw some light over our current fears & queries. Visualization is a journey into the depths of our subconscious mind. If we let it be, it will open to us like a flower, offering its perfum in the shape of revealing images that can have great value to our conscious reality.
Meanwhile my mind keeps generating questions for my favourite genius and I thank once more my admired Woody, asking him to have a very long and prolific life so he can keep giving me every year a fruitful pearl of magic. I am sure that this enthusiastic & grateful energy can reach him somehow, travelling from the South of Spain where I am to his shelter at the big apple, flying low through the River Seine and holding loving spices scents. Just like this draft travels from Tokio especially for this occasion thanks to my dear friend Fernando González Viñas.
Long live the creative genius, the travels of any kind and those people who are brave enough to build their reality according to their ideas and dreams! That’s the paste that reality is actually made of.
"Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?"
A dream within a dream, by Edgar Allan Poe