Posts Tagged ‘escapism’

Midnight in Paris – Woody Allen

(slightly spoiled)

Thank God! Woody Allen switched off the auto-pilot used partially in “Whatever Works” and full-time in “You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”. It is not his most original work but is definitely narrated with the freshness “You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” lacked so much.

“Midnight in Paris” is, as the title promises to be, an ode to Paris and all its charms. In addition it is also an ode to good ol’ times, not the ones we witnessed but the ones we read about in books, see in the movies and learn about in history class.

Midnight is a special hour when yesterday, today and tomorrow meet. It is the moment when the hero takes a leap in time, the moment Woody Allen chooses to feed us and his hero the magic of never-known but always longed-for better, cooler, more dynamic past.

We are offered what only cinema, of all arts, can offer, dreamlike time traveling. Cinema can curve time, we’re so rigidly and linearly trapped in, in the most natural way. It is science-fiction Woody Allen style, escapist style, using up all the possibilities and tricks a time travel in Paris of the Golden Age can offer. It is not a journey as unexpected as the one in “The Purple Rose of Cairo” but still an entertaining one.

The artistic milieu our hero lands in is astonishing, of course, and he has some revelatory encounters; the one with the surrealist group is probably the most intriguing and, in return, Luis Bunuel gets something very important out of this bizarre meeting but he is not yet aware of it. But we are and what a treat it is!

“Midnight in Paris” is well spent quality time with Woody Allen. We are not witnessing a chef d’oeuvre, but it’s definitely an enjoyable film and maybe even worth seeing twice. The cast, this time, is a success curing me, at least, of the “Tall Dark Stranger” cast trauma. Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Corey Stoll are adorable, but Adrien Brody was the one who took me home.

The past, as glamorous as it is, as welcoming as it seems in the realm of cinema, was once the harsh present for the ones who lived it. The present is always too prosaic, no matter when or where, is what we all want to escape most of the time. That not being possible, maybe present is to be faced with gaiety and courage as Hemingway describes it. Use your dreams of perfection as the lance against quotidian dullness and indifference. Make present a past worth escaping to. Make present your Belle Epoque and never wait for the Future!

Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese

This one is filled with spoilers, mixed up, accidentally hidden and crystal-clear spoilers. If you didn’t see the movie and hate spoilers, don’t read it but you should definitely see the movie. If you saw the movie than scroll over the trailer and read if you feel like it. You are more than welcomed to place a comment.

Stuck in the middle of nature, humanity is, absurdly, not in equilibrium but off-balance. Only animals and the gods, if gods exist, are in harmony with the world, their violence and goodness are extreme, never controlled, sublime.

Our brain is the tool that can help us find an equilibrium that won’t hurt us, our surroundings or the others. It is also the tool that can make us perfectly violent. In the same time, our brain is the first to stop us in achieving perfection be it in goodness or in violence.

We don’t use our brain to make our existence truer. Day by day we exhaust it building the scenario in which we’re the good guy – sometimes the victim, sometimes the hero – who always fights for the right cause. All our actions have perfect alibis. Our brain is working overtime on that.

Cinema is one of the many reasons we are all prisoner of our self-absorbed, escapist scenarios. This form of entertainment was the opium of the people throughout the 20th century. The scars of this century were continuously looked after by cinema; healing them and opening them repeatedly.

Cinema offered much stronger illusions, released more powerful violence, feed more effectively the frustrations than any other force that influenced the masses. Because cinema it’s not the judging, finger-pointing church, nor the ruthless economy, nor the humiliating politics. It washes off class-boundaries, moral values and offers everybody a personalized ecstasy pill in the dark. It offers the illusion of freedom in a damp, dark room.

Today, even if one’s not a cinemagoer he or she would still build up the conscience-appeasing scenario resembling to film scenarios of the cinema’s golden era, because the silver screen left a prominent mark on our day-dreaming language.

In the same way cinema abducts us and melts our brain into whatever story we are watching, the scenarios we build up every day to overcome our pettiness, cowardice and harm we inflict on the world, alienate us from our true selves, they alienate us from the truth about our actions. Luckily, like any form of art, cinema learned to offer the opposite too, to expose our weaknesses, to work as a wake-up call.

What does it mean to be true to oneself? Art, religion, secular law, philosophy and even sports talk about freedom, honesty and fair-play. We brag about all this things when we feel mistreated but do we use them effectively in our relationships with our fellow human being?

Freedom is probably the most uttered word in human history, it is the star concept of human kind yet we seem to be most afraid of using it. Because freedom means to choose between those two sublime extremes only animal and gods can reach: pure violence and pure goodness. If we practice the first we’re locked away, if we practice the second we’d probably end up crucified. So what’s a human to do with freedom? What does it mean to be free on a human scale? How do we become free? Once free, can we still be active in society or even alive?

If we are lucky, as the main character in Shutter Island is, we’d have a few people (or experiences, or accidents, or studies) around us who’d conduct on us an intervention at the end of which we’d become self-aware, able to recognize our defense mechanisms, our disgraceful and our honorable traits etc. If we accept the intervention – we’ve already found an honorable trait; courage – we have the chance to free ourselves from our alienating dream, to take a few steps back and have an objective look at ourselves. Now we are free to choose to live without illusions, exposed or we can choose to reenter our cozy, illusionary cage. Either way, we become free to choose.

For us, the “sane” ones, who commit but trivial crimes-that sometimes hurt like torture, sometime feel like murder – what are the choices if we want to have choices? To head for the lighthouse or to stay in society’s ever reshaping cage which will never turn us into perfect lambs, the cage which will only continue to frustrate the lonely wolf within and will always tolerate our numbing scenarios.

Shutter Island is a heartbreaking psychological journey from the illusionary scenario to self-awareness. At the end of it there is freedom to choose between recognizing the harm inflicted on the world or to have a good old-fashioned transorbital lobotomy.

The movie is perfectly built; its architecture has the foundation on one person’s perspective; the music, the surroundings, the cast, the special effects all play along a perfect tune. That one character, whose perspective Scorsese masterly follows, is played by Leonardo di Caprio never off-key.

This escapist story could have not reached its goals in another art form than cinema. A book, a painting, a music score could never conquer our brains as totally as the pervert cinematographic tools do. That’s why Shutter Island is another perfect movie, for it can’t be anything else.

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