She’d picked up the driving guitar and applied it to the one and only Woody Allen movie she has ever seen, Midnight in Paris. She’d seen it twice. “Kind of” I replied. “Good question.” “Woody Allen uses a lot of swing and jazz music in his films,” I explained to her. “So since you heard it in the movie Midnight in Paris, you associate it with him now.”
I loved this question, actually. First it showed me she has an appreciation for music – other than Justin Bieber’s (not that there is anything wrong with it). Secondly, it got me in the mood for some good, early morning music listening. I continued with Django, moved onto some Edith Piaf, skipped over to Naples for a little Renato Carosone and boogie woogie, and then came squarely back to Django. I continued in that vein of swing and dixie moving slowly up the ranks and ending with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Squirrel Nut Zippers. But the Woody Allen reference haunted me, and I stayed with it.
I’ve been a fan of Woody Allen since I was a kid. I was introduced to him by one of my first childhood friends, Andy, but not through his movies. It was his book Without Feathers that he used to introduce me to him. I quickly followed that with Side Effects and Getting Even, and then moved on to his films. I did not always appreciate all his films, but all those that I really loved were the ones where he demonstrated the most nostalgia. The first one I really loved was Radio Days. It wasn’t his best, perhaps, but it was sweet and sentimental and the music he chose to accompany each individual scene was great. In fact, the point was that each piece of music sparked a specific memory for the narrator.
For some odd reason, a reason that I’d never tried to comprehend, I’ve always been nostalgic. Perhaps this is because of the stories my parents and uncles told me about their own youths. Radio Days certainly made me imagine what the New York of my father’s childhood must have been like. But interestingly, it’s Midnight in Paris which most struck a chord in me, and not in an intellectual way but in a purely sentimental way. It captured every thing, every artist, writer and musician, and every cliché I’d ever daydreamed. From Pablo Picasso to Cole Porter (whose music I obsessively listened to in college), and from Ernest Hemingway to Juan Belmonte to Salvador Dalí… they were all there. And what is interesting is that it also captured the imagination of my daughter – and her ear. And true to form, as in Radio Days, the music was the spark.
In the movie Midnight in Paris, Michael Sheen’s character Paul claims “Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present.” I don’t think my youth was particularly painful, nor do I think my present is. I consider nostalgia an exercise of my senses, and when I have a moment I enjoy my Golden Age Thinking, with a little music on the side. You should try it some time.