Tomorrow by this time we will have known winners of 84th Academy Awards. It seems that the top two favorites to win the Best Picture award are ‘The Artist’ and ‘Hugo’. No matter who wins in the end, there is one clear winner this year….’Nostalgia’. Collins English dictionary defines Nostalgia as ‘Yearning for return of past circumstances, event etc.’ So many movies released this year not just deal with the theme of nostalgia but even celebrates it. Well, as a matter of fact many movies deal with the element of Nostalgia. Sidney Lumet even wrote once that there is something really nostalgic about stars. Nostalgia is a driving emotion for a lot of work of art. Insatiable yearning to live, re-live something that just doesn’t exist anymore has driven many writers, poets and painters to do their work. I would like to talk about three movies released this year in this context. Hugo, The Artist and Midnight in Paris.
The Artist: Some reviewer had written that ‘The Artist’ is a bold movie. It indeed is bold and courageous. It indeed takes a lot of courage to express your love at such a large scale. The Artist is a bold statement of love for cinema. In many ways, ‘The Artist’ is not an original movie. The basic storyline – ‘A glorious successful man and his career are destroyed and he with the help of his secret lover rebuilds himself’ – has been repeated a zillion times. The very premise of private lives of movie stars, their rise and fall have been shown zillion times. What makes ‘The Artist’ really different and unique is the fact that it has been presented without colors and without sound today. However, the movie is neither just about a silent movie star’s struggle to adapt to the evolution of the industry nor is simply a love story. This movie is a story of lost love. This movie is a silent movie’s ardent admirer’s statement of love towards glorious silent era of cinema. This is a movie about nostalgia.
Hugo: In my humble opinion ‘Hugo’ may lose Oscar to ‘The Artist’. But Hugo is a homage to all those creators, dreamers and artists who converted a technological advance called ‘Motion Pictures’ into a genuine form of art and entertainment, called Cinema. One of those mavericks was George Méliès. The two central characters of the movie Hugo and Papa George are in a constant philosophical tussle. On one hand Hugo is constantly trying to find answers to his questions in the past – in his memories – in the old worn out notebook of his father; on the other hand George (majestically performed by Ben Kingsley) is trying very hard to run away from the past, because it’s just too painful for him to revisit those emotions. The movie is about a constant struggle between denial and acceptance of nostalgia. Finally, acceptance wins and denial loses. Hugo finally finds the answer to his questions in George Méliès’ house and he successfully drags Papa George out of his protective shell of routines and takes him to the land of memories. The deep buried past is unearthed, recognized and finally celebrated. Scorsese has masterfully made the movie in 3D and has shown the tremendous potential that 3D holds beyond animation and blockbuster movies.
Midnight in Paris: I am sure, among glittering tales of The Artist and Hugo; this little gem may be lost, overlooked or even forgotten tonight. But years from now, when some philosopher would study the conceptual depth, width and breadth of nostalgia, he will refer to this movie. For some romantic dreamers, nostalgia means a strong craving to live not just in past, but in a completely different era; the era that we have never seen, the era which was long over when we were born, the era that we have only imagined, read about or seen in movies, the era that despite everything said before, dominates our imagination. The nostalgic sensation so beautifully elaborated and celebrated by Woody Allen in this movie is one which strikes a chord with many. Because so many of us have at some point in our lives have felt this yearning to live in another era; either because the present doesn’t satisfy us, or because the unseen past seems more interesting, or simply because we are curious. In other words, we all have been nostalgic at some point in our lives. This movie is an ode to nostalgia and all those who cherish being nostalgic.
I have been late by about 12 hours in posting this piece and the Oscar ceremony has already begun, and within a couple of hours Oscar will have gone to…..Nostalgia.