Last night I watched Midnight In Paris with my girlfriend, and I’m not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I know enough about his clout and respect in Hollywood, that going out to watch a film by him could be an okay experience. I know that his films can go in so many different directions, though, oftentimes going in a direction that makes the film really shitty. Once in a while, he’ll make a Crimes and Misdemeanors or a Match Point (I haven’t seen Annie Hall yet– don’t freak out). And then he’ll make something like the one with Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci; a fucking mess that movie. Thankfully, Midnight in Paris was actually pretty good, with–as I figured would happen–a ton of the Woody Allen dialogue trademarks that make his films stand out as well as prevent it from advancing some plot elements. Whatever, this isn’t a film review.
Besides it being a beautiful film to look at, and making me want to move to France (preferably the South), it got across a couple of interesting points that I think relate to the current panic of identity in the UK House and Bass culture. Not to say the film is about dubstep at all, but definitely about creativity within a community.
The film’s central theme revolves around the idea of nostalgia and what Woody Allen calls “Golden Age Thinking”– a romantic yearn for the more exciting past as a defense for denial of issues within the present. The plot is that Owen Wilson travels back in time to 1920s Paris where the streets were crawling with dudes like Hemingway (a total badass in this movie) and Fitzgerald. The city acts as a venue for both literary/artistic creativity, as well as a “better time” in opposition to the “blandness” of 2010.
That sentiment is so common when you relate it to music, too. Y’know, you listen to a genre of music more prevalent and alive within a certain time period. The culture was such a vital part of the music-making process, and the time period had such a distinct fingerprint. You subconsciously juxtapose this “golden age” with the present state of new music coming out within your present state, and you immediately long to live in that golden age more because it was so much “better”.
Who doesn’t get that? I was way too young to be a part of the jungle/rave scene at its prime, but the past couple of days I’ve gravitated more towards it because It was a more ripe and solid circle of dance music. And so different from the dance community I live in. Funny, too, because Self-Titled just did an interview with Zomby about his new record, and at some point in the conversation the interviewer was asked by Zomby where he lived/grew up in. The interviewer replied with something like he used to live in Buffalo, NY as a teenager, and would frequent the jungle raves across the border in Toronto. All Zomby could say was “Sick”. Because it is really fucking sick.
Sometime near the end of Midnight In Paris, Marion Coittard’s character tells Owen Wilson that she thinks 1920s Paris is bland, boring and void of any interest whatsoever; she yearns to live in a prior Renaissance because the time was more exciting and creatively healthy to live in. Owen Wilson, like any of us would, tells her that she’s delusional and that she’s in fact living in the Golden Age, because she’s among guys like Salvador Dali and Man Ray. Owen Wilson’s character then realizes 2010 is just as much a period of creativity and renaissance for artists in the future as it is in 20s, and decides to take advantage of his epoch.
I’ve read a lot of different discussions, articles and blog posts about how there’s no concrete identity and name for the stuff coming out of the UK right now. Especially since the output is an amalgamation of so many different styles of dance music– there’s so many ways to deconstruct it, you just basically end up with house music. Which is so different from D&B, jungle, garage; genres that had a really solid, decipherable and distinctive sound with a culture to boot.
I just don’t think there’s any reason to panic, though. The fact that there is no identity makes this age of UK electronic probably the most exciting it’s been in a while. Kode9 said in the last issue of XLR8R that we’re in some sort of transitionary stage. The fact that we have no idea what all of these sounds will turn out to become is the wrong way to look at it. This is a Golden Age of sorts, where different styles of electronic music from all parts of the world are channeling themselves into one area of rave/dance music. Kinda like Paris in the 1920s.
It’s kinda sick.