Midnight in Paris

Did anyone else see “Midnight in Paris?”  Were they as taken with it as I was?  Of course, we historical novelists all want to find that magical time machine that will whisk us back to the past and plonk us right down in the company of our characters.  It was a charming movie that asked some serious questions.

I had a trip to Paris planned long before I saw the movie, but I’m glad I saw it just before I left.  I was able to track down the spot where they filmed the cab coming slowly up the windy cobbled street, stopping to take our hero off to 1920s Paris.  I sat and waited but nothing like that came along for me.  Alas, I’m still stuck with using my bare imagination to go back in time.

I had already gotten the addresses of the places where Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (who appear in the movie) as well as Jim Morrison (emphatically not in the movie) had lived.  I wasn’t surprised to find that Fitzgerald’s part of town was much swankier than Hemingway’s.  And Jim Morrison’s apartment (described as ‘non-descript’) was actually rather attractive.  I don’t know what it was about Paris that made these men feel they could write better there.  I had a desire to rent an apartment myself and find out.

I followed Jim Morrison out to the cemetery where his grave attracts more people than anyone else’s.  It was almost the 40 year anniversary of his death so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there.  The crowd-control barricades were having no luck in keeping out his fans, who clambered over and left their offerings of wine bottles, candles, and cigarettes on the grave.  A group of French teenagers asked me to take their photo next to the tombstone and I did.  They said they wished they had lived then.  I told them that wouldn’t be so good, as then they would be almost 70, but they insisted they’d rather have been born 60 years ago.  I felt like I was in “Midnight in Paris” for real, for the characters there keep wishing they were in another era.

The cemetery also houses Abelard and Heloise, Collette, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Moliere, and hoards of others.  Any one of them could have–and has—made excellent material for us historical novelists. And now they are so quiet.  It wasn’t carved on his tomb, but Moliere said, “We only die once—and for such a long time.”

That is, until a novel or a movie brings them back to life.