Midnight in Paris; home ground for the artist

Carl Jung gave a lecture on ‘the Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious,’ in Paris, in 1916. Despite its comedic tones, there is something just as serious about Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (2011), much of which is set in the 1920s.  It portrays a battle between ego and the unconscious, and Paris could not be a more bias venue, for it is a city where the unconscious thrives. The deepest beauty inside of us constantly chooses Paris as its birthplace.

Gil is a writer, a romantic who falls out of love with the ego he has constructed and in love with Paris and what the city offers his unconscious. He is not the first to be so seduced. A host of writers, artists and performers; passionate creatives, surrealists, have been lured to this bed of fertility; it is a proven catalyst for art, a home ground for the true artist.

‘Only a life lived in a certain spirit is worth living. It is a remarkable fact that a life lived entirely from the ego is dull not only for the person himself but for all concerned.’ Carl Jung, (1926)

Gil’s rival, Paul is a master of ego construction, impressive enough to seduce Gil’s shallow fiancée, Inez. Paul is a façade; an opaque mask made up of knowledge and boasts, and even this is covered by a beard. He has no desire to discover his own depths or the soul of the city he is in.  Paris does not suit Paul, he will leave and Gil will not.

What makes Paris such a comfortable home to the artist? Midnight in Paris opens with sixty, five-second fragments of the city, each clip displays Parisian life, and all contain nature. Whether it be a tree, grass, flowers or fountains of water, everywhere you look there is something to remind you of the beauty of nature, forbidding you to forget it and nourishing the unconscious so that it may thrive. And just to reinforce the reputation there are walls garnished with art and more than 400 streets named after writers and artists.

‘That Paris exists and anyone would choose anywhere else in the world to live will always be a mystery to me.’  Midnight in Paris

Paris has always been closely linked to the feminine, celebrating women like no other city. Its name is thought to come from Per-Isis, the house of Isis. A house for a goddess; and not just any goddess. Isis was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the matron of nature and magic. She is the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans, and the downtrodden; desperate writers like George Orwell seemed so certain of her powers they decided to live there as a ‘Down and Out’.

The patron saint of Paris is also female. Genevieve was a fifth century virgin who defended the city as men failed. Perhaps all the generosity shown to the feminine is in fact gratitude. The feminine form is certainly worshipped and it is clothed by the best designers in the world.

‘If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life, its stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.’  Ernest Hemingway

Paris, a city so beautiful that General von Chorltitz ignored Hitler’s orders to burn it to the ground. The romantic architecture: bosom like domes, phallic spires that reach to the heavens, avenues wide enough for light, encouraging yet more growth. A deeper look at this city reveals why the unconscious feels so at home, why it is the setting for such a film and what has drawn a multitude of creative souls:

Paul Gauguin, Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Claude Monet, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Leo Stein, T. S. Eliott, William Faulkner, Andre Breton, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Milan Kundera, George Orwell, Josephine Baker, Cole Porter, Djuna Barnes, Man Ray, David Hockney, Gertrude Stein, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Coco Chanel, Edith Piaf, Luis Bunuel, Max Ernst, Henry James, Modigliani, Edith Wharton, Soutine, Straavinsky, Fujita, Erza Pound, Chagall, Debussy, Jim Morrison, Christian Dior, Yves St Laurent, Givenchy…