In 2004, I moved to Toronto to do an MA in Humanities because of a course entitled “Inventing Modernism: Paris in the 1920s.” I read everything I could get my hands on about Picasso, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Surrealism, Cubism, Ballets Russes, etc, and their lives and work under the roofs of Paris. Together they not only created innovative and revolutionizing art and literature, they created a whole movement, often referred to as aesthetic modernism. I moved to Toronto to study Paris, but I ended up in Berlin.
Woody Allen’s latest film is a lovely homage to, and summary of all the fascinating highlights of Paris in the 1920s. Te film is fill of literary, artistic and cinematic references. All the performances are great, but in his 10 minutes on screen, Adrien Brody, as Salvador Dali, almost steals the whole movie.
“Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” (Zelda Fitzgerald)
“I’m jealous and I’m trusting. It’s cognitive dissonance. F. Scott Fitzgerald talked about it.” (Gil, Midnight in Paris)
“I went out onto the sidewalk and walked down toward the Boulevard St. Michel, passed the tables of the Rotonde, still crowded, looked across the street at the Dome, its tables running out to the edge of the pavement. Some one waved at me from a table, I did not see who it was and went on. I wanted to get home. The Boulevard Montparnasse was deserted. Lavigne’s was closed tight, and they were stacking the tables outside the Closerie des Lilas. (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, 1926)
“The windows were open wide and the cobbles of the street were drying after the rain.” (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)
“In the morning I walked down the Boulevard to the rue Soufflot for coffee and brioche. The horse-chestnut trees in theLuxembourggardens were in bloom. There was the pleasant early-morning feeling of a hot day. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. The flower-women were coming up from the market and arranging their daily stock. Students went by going up to the law school, or down to the Sorbonne. The Boulevard was busy with trams and people going to work. I got on an S bus and rode down to the Madeleine, standing on the back platform. From the Madeleine I walked along the Boulevard des Capucines to the Opera, and up to my office.” (Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises, 1926)
“On the right bank was the Bateau Lavoir, on the left, the smoke-filled evenings of the Closerie des Lilas. Between the two flowed the Seine. And the entire history of modern art.” (Dan Franck, Bohemian Paris – Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, and the Birth of Modern Art, 2001)
“No. 27 rue de Fleurus. The house had two storeys, and an adjoining workshop. The studio consisted of an enormous room , which contained polished Italian Renaissance furniture, a fireplace, a massive cross hung between two windows, and had whitewashed walls without an inch of bare space left on them. They were completely covered with the works of Gaugin, Delacroix, El Greco, Manet, Braque, Vallotton, Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and others. It wasn’t a museum. And since, at the time, most of these paintings weren’t worth much, the door to the studio opened easily with a single key: a flat American-style key that could easily be slipped in one’s pocket, a far cry from the enormous, noisy contraptions that Parisians clanked about with in their pockets. This is where the Steins lived. Every Saturday, they received guests in a kind of open house. To be allowed in, all one had to do was answer the hostess’s ritual question – “Who sent you?” – with the name of an artist whose works were in the room. One entered a vast studio where an extremely varied crowd – painters, writers, poets – was gathered. Once a week, at the Steins’, guests could eat and drink all they wanted which, when one was a starving artist, was not a negligible attraction. And if one was also interested in modern art, the company was exceedingly interesting. … Gertrude Stein was the orchestrator of these artistic get-togethers and she enjoyed the role. Seated under her portrait like Saint Louis dispensing his judgment under a tree, she handed out comments with an authoritative air, glaring angrily at anyone who dared to interrupt her.” (Dan Franck, Bohemian Paris – Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse, and the Birth of Modern Art, 2001)
“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 one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.” (Paul, Midnight in Paris)
“The performance began. No sooner had it commenced when the excitement began. The scene now so well known with its brilliantly colored background now not at all extraordinary, outraged theParisaudience. No sooner did the music begin and the dancing than they began to his. The defenders began to applaud. We could hear nothing, as a matter of fact I never did hear any of the music of the Sacre du Printemps because it was the only time I ever saw it and one literally could not, throughout the whole performance hear the sound of music. The dancing was very fine and that we could see although our attention was constantly distracted by a man in the box next to us flourishing his cane, and finally in a violent altercation with an enthusiast in the box next to him, his cane came down and smashed the opera hat the other had just put on in defiance. It was all incredibly fierce.” (Alice B. Toklas, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas)
“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.” (Ernest Hemingway, Midnight in Paris)