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Friday, September 09, 2011

My Paris

(click here for the Romanian version)

It could start the way the movie of Woody Allen is telling us, in a nostalgia store, with vinyl records and ebonite plates, and old musical scores, with old photos, with posters for movies from the sixties, and books printed in Paris by 1860 or 1865, and all that kind of stuff, requiring patience, to be browsed quietly, while hours are passing, and evening is coming.

It's midnight now here in Paris, and the rain has just started. Are you still there, in the nostalgia store? Or are you out, walking in the rain, without care? Who is that girl smiling at you? La Môme? How could that be? Edith Piaf, is it she? Someone is humming a song without words, you know the song, you cannot figure out the title, but you know it, and a few tears begin to flow, as from nowhere. Is it nostalgia? No, it is joy, only you cannot believe the miracle.

Is it Edith Piaf, is it rather Marion Cotillard? Does it matter any more? Or is it Kiki, the Kiki of Montparnasse, and you are competing Man Ray?

Wait, who is the girl, and where are you now? Is it Zelda, and you are on the stairs at Montmartre? The same song, without words, you know it, you still can't remember the title.

No, it's not Zelda Fitzgerald, this image of the Escaliers de Montmartre comes from 1950. Have you arrived there from the nostalgia store, letting your dreams float without haste? Or were you staring at the old poster showing an image from 1950, a poster that you had bought one day in that small boutique in New Hope? You had bought it in 2003, now it was the summer of 2009, you were ready to leave the small apartment where you had spent seven years of your life, to move in another town, far away, and the poster was there, and you were ready to take it down from the wall, and your dreams were floating around, and your nostalgia. And you took your cheap camera and tried a shot.

(image of a poster that hanged in my apartment)

So it is 1950, and you are in Paris. It's midnight and you are out, in the rain. And that song, without words, a song of love and nostalgia. And you start thinking at an earlier age, the third decade of the century, the Mad Years, Les Années Folles, as you remember another movie, it was the only movie made by Mirea Alexandresco.

, a man who crossed my life twice. Once in Paris, in 1945, I was just born, and my mother got from the parents of Mirea the baby carriage that had been his, and then, years later, at the beginning of the eighties, when Mirea came to Bucharest in a short visit, with his wife and little daughter. He passed away prematurely sometime in the nineties. I watched his movie on TV, long time ago.

I discovered today on the web the image of a poster of Les Années Folles. A vintage poster, no question about this, with a history of its own: once folded (oops!), then kept flat for a long period of time (to get in shape again), with a bit of paper loss in the right of top edge. The poster had been used in Belgian theaters, so you can note the movie's title both in French and Flemish (Zotte Jahren). It was auctioned in 2011, and sold for ten dollars.

Well, that poster brought me again in the Paris of the twenties, Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were there, and all those guys, and Gertrude Stein who was just coining the term of Lost Generation. And Buñuel, and Dalí. Is it he, Dalí, or Adrien Brody, impersonating Dalí in the movie of Woody Allen? Why is this movie coming again and again in my mind? I'm talking now to Dalí, about my walks in the rain on empty Parisian streets, browsing decades, and he's not surprised. It is quite normal, he says, time is just a convention, keep dreaming.

Was this the Paris I wanted to be in? Maybe not, my dreams were floating towards a much earlier age, the epoch of Emonds and Marville, a city about to change its face, the mid of ninetieth century. Old streets were to disappear, and the photographers were taking photos in haste, to document the old homes, and the old pavements. And the art of Painting was about to change face. The artists had discovered at Barbizon the plein air, and Impressionism was about to come. Well, yes, that would be the Paris to be in.

And maybe the journey should start in that small antiquarian shop, Rue du Cherche Midi, just next to the house where I spent the first three years of my life. I came back there tens of years later, in 1999, and I entered the store: a place to browse those old books, and old photos, drawings and engravings, and let your dreams free.

And I am out. It's midnight and it's raining (to quote Dan, who was quoting in turn Woody Allen). And I start to remember the words of the song, it's Plaisir d'Amour, it was written in Paris, only much, much earlier, in 1780! Berlioz would compose the music a bit later, in the first half of the nineteenth century.

And it's so beautiful the song, that my tears are mixing with the drops of rain. I will come back to this, it's much to say.

(Cinéma Français)

(A Life in Books)

(The Fitzgeralds)

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