By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain)
The movie starts out with images. The Eiffel Tower. The Arc De Triomphe. The Louvre. Le Sacre Coeur. The Seine. Familiar looking streets to your eye if you’ve ever seen anything filmed in Paris. Of course like any big city, there were cafes on screen that I don’t remember having seen in any image before so it provided new glimpses of a city familiar to all of us from the increasingly small world through movies and television.
Midnight in Paris had me right then and I didn’t even know it.
My thoughts drifted to my all too brief time in Paris. Walking the streets. Stopping by carts to pick up lunch. Looking forward to the morning with coffee, baguettes and strawberry jam. Letting my feet take me where they wanted to go with only the memories of my tour book to guide me as the physical copy was left behind in my hostel room so that my walk was unencumbered by backpacks or books. Yes, I missed seeing things. Yes, I ended up in a cemetery and realized I had no use seeing gravestones, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. (White, no sugar.) Still, I saw as much as I could from the vantage point of the many different random streets that go in every which way to make up the Paris city center.
Soon after leaving, I dreamt of visiting again or, even better, of living in Paris for a year, because I had fallen in love with a city and the people. Finally using the language that had made enough of an imprint in high school and college so that I could still pick up on just enough of someone’s speech to make me smile at my ability to decipher a special code of tens of millions of people. The language that I used on a train to talk to a couple who helped me along, that were kind enough to take the time to listen to my halting words and help me to understand that my struggle could show benefits. Sitting every morning near the banks of the Seine, enjoying a coffee seems like it would be a cool way to spend a year. Though the dream is now many years old, it is still one that I cherish, the thought of becoming a secret agent of France.
Minutes later during the movie, I realized I was not alone in this dream, for this was the dream of the protagonist played by Owen Wilson.
After the movie, I realized how much more universal the theme is.
Entertainment allows us to explore those fantasies of finding a place, a time and people that we truly love. Finding a place, a time and people where we don’t feel like we are rushing to keep up with all that is around us, but rather the flow of our world buoys us to the surface of its stream and we casually float along in peace, knowing that everything will be ok in the end. Athletes call it “the zone,” and I’m not sure what the term would be in regular life, but in tribute to Bryan Cranston, Walter White and Vince Gilligan, I think it could just be called “breaking good.”
Spending time with those people that truly get us, that know what it means to meet a deadline for a project, or to write the perfect sentence or to find that missing dollar that balances the books in the midst of millions is something that seems easy. We can find those people. We can join clubs. We can find a cool place to work. We can take classes. We can call, email, IM or visit friends. We can control our interpersonal placement as much as we can control anything. Still, when the casts of Community or Torchwood appear on the television, I think a lot of us would jump at the chance to go to Greendale Community College and play paintball or to work in secrecy under the streets of Cardiff examining alien artifacts and saving the world. We’d still keep in touch though. Of course we would.
There are times when I think that the solitary life of a trapper in early 1800s, exploring the west for the first time would be the perfect life. It probably comes from my father’s DNA, as “Jeremiah Johnson” is one of his favorite films. There are times that I think a mountain town calls my name to return to that small town, big peaks life. There are other times that I know that L.A. is the perfect place for me. Ask me any day of the week and I’d give you a different answer, depending on the traffic, the sunshine, or the dreams of snow in June.
I’m not sure where, when or who my perfect existence would encompass. Paris in the ‘20s with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway might be pretty darn cool as it showed that world during my viewing of Midnight in Paris. It certainly would help to explain why Doctor Who has become a favorite of mine. Not only is all of the past open to the Doctor, but all of time and space as well. You could sample everywhere, every when and every who. Why not? How do you know what is your perfect time and space unless you look around a bit? Well, unless you think that your life has peaked and that there isn’t much else out there. The glory days have passed you by and Bruce Springsteen’s song haunts your nights, as your beers never have a chance to get warm. I hope that isn’t your truth and maybe seeing Midnight in Paris will convince you otherwise. You might just need a displacement to give you a fresh outlook on life, if only in your dreams.
Midnight in Paris is a fantasy/comedy and is in theaters now. Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.