THE GREEN, GREEN GRASS

Woody Allen’s Oscar-winning 2011 fantasy comedy, ‘Midnight in Paris’, features a lead character (played by Owen Wilson) resident in the here and now, whose holiday in the French capital takes a dreamlike turn when he gets lost in the backstreets one evening and finds himself stumbling into the Paris of the 1920s. Magically entering the time when Paris was the cultural epicentre of the western world, he encounters the likes of Cocteau, Dali, Picasso, Hemingway, Cole Porter, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein and various other creative luminaries of the decade. As a fan of the present they inhabit, the character attempts to convince them of the riches he sees in their era.

The cleverest moment in the movie comes when Picasso’s lover Adriana expresses her own personal opinion that the real era to be in was the so-called La Belle Époque period of the late nineteenth century; when she and the lead character somehow manage to travel back there, some of that period’s key figures they meet, such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas, are in agreement that the only age to have been alive was the Renaissance. ‘Midnight in Paris’ is not only one of Woody Allen’s finest recent cinematic outings; it also shrewdly points out that golden ages are retrospective labels tagged onto episodes of history after the event.

Unless we can look back on a particular phase of our own individual lifetimes and recognise we lived through a special period ourselves, many of us have a fascination with a specific era that took place before we were born. Personally, I would have enjoyed being a dandy during the Regency or perhaps a fashion photographer in Swinging London; but I don’t reflect on any time I’ve actually been resident in throughout my thirty years as an adult and hanker after it with rose-tinted nostalgia; I can honestly say I haven’t enjoyed any of it. Whether I would have enjoyed the Regency or Swinging London any more isn’t an issue because I’ll never be there; however, it remains a felicitous fantasy.

Last week, a survey commissioned by the Resolution Foundation was published; the subjects of the survey were ‘Millennials’, i.e. anyone born between 1981 and 2000 (those born this century have their own hideous demographic nickname). The findings of the survey declared that one in three Millennials would rather have lived through the era their parents were young in, despite the fact that would mean they’d have been deprived of the electronic creature comforts life is apparently unimaginable without. Over 2,000 people were surveyed between the ages of 16 and 75 and the general agreement reached was that anyone young today will never achieve the same standard of life as that which their parents have enjoyed.

In this case, the yearning to have been alive thirty or forty years ago doesn’t stem from the obvious attractions of superior pop culture to participate in, but the more practical desires of being able to buy one’s home and having job security that can pay for one. In the survey, graduates were just as pessimistic about the future as those regarded as high-earners. 57% of the former were convinced the youth of today have a worse standard of living than their parents to look forward to; 55% of the latter (earning above £55,000 a year) agreed with them. When it came to lower earners (£20,000 or less), 44% shared the same belief. It would seem technological advances don’t add up to much more than expensive sedatives.

And yet – the supposed higher standard of living the parents of Millennials have attained didn’t land in their laps overnight. They had to work for it. Thrift is a word one doesn’t hear much these days, but it was employed by the young who wanted to get on in the 60s and 70s when they saw the doors to social mobility opening before them; there was an entrance fee, however. The heavy industry that existed on a nationwide scale for perhaps the first forty years after the end of the Second World War has been reduced to a small smattering of industrial outposts this century, but it was once one of the dominant employers of the country’s workforce; Millennials are spared that, at least; though maybe there was a greater sense of job satisfaction at the end of the working day when having emerged from a pit or a steel foundry than can be found in having cold-called strangers whilst sitting on one’s arse for eight hours.

Even if their parents’ generation received what seems to have been a greater reward for their endeavours, the hours were put in whatever colour the collar of the job; additional part-time work would augment the main wage along with night-school courses as a means of ascending the next rung of the ladder. Socialising would be rationed, with the occasional trip to the cinema or football enjoyed sparingly when money was being put aside for the long-term. If one had a car, chances were it would be a second (or third) hand banger; if one had a house, it would be fitted out with second (or third) hand furniture – and on HP at that; telephones were a relative luxury; television sets were rented; holidays, if taken at all, would invariably take place within the British Isles, erratic climate or no. If one wanted must-have household appliances, one had to save up for them; and other things were regarded as more important, anyway.

Make do and mend, making ends meet, living within one’s means – awful old phrases the credit card seemed to have magically banished from the nation’s vocabulary; consumerism has a lot to answer for, yes; but one could argue many of the disputes that crippled industry in the 70s and 80s were at times motivated by a craving for consumer goods that were being marketed more aggressively than ever before at that point. Today, there’s no need to strike for them; your flexible friend can get them for you and then you can show them off on social media. Debt, once such a shameful stigma, is commonplace below a certain age; and none of the money reserved for paying it off is going towards saving up for somewhere to live.

There’s no doubt the opportunities for social mobility have narrowed considerably, and many degrees now are not worth the paper they’re written on; working hours are long and pay is poor. But hardships are endured by all generations looking for a better life; whether or not that better life is there at the end of the hardship is another matter altogether. It might have been there in 1957, 1967 or 1977; is it in 2017?

© The Editor

PRACTICALLY A POLANSKI

AllenThe notorious underground filmmaker, author and disciple of Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Anger got there long before him (fifty-one years before, as it happens), but it seems a current Hollywood B-lister has decided the time is right to expose Tinsel Town as a hotbed of vice and debauchery, that’s if Elijah Wood’s weekend accusation is anything to go by. Perhaps he’s got a movie to plug. Mind you, someone ranking far higher in the constellation of contemporary celluloid royalty beat him to it when she decided to side with the ‘injured party’ in a marital squabble that has been revived after two decades in abeyance. Step forward Susan Sarandon, leading light of the liberal left in Hollywood, the one that was so mercilessly (not to say brilliantly) skewered in ‘Team America: World Police’.

Sarandon didn’t mind getting her tits oot for the lads in earlier cinematic outings which (probably to her embarrassment) have retained cult appeal, specifically ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ and ‘The Hunger’; but since her marriage to Tim Robbins and celebrated role in ‘Thelma and Louise’, Sarandon has been elevated to the PC Premier League in that self-important corner of California that reached an apex of patronising preaching at this year’s Oscars ceremony. What Sarandon has to do with the subject she publicly intervened in last week remains questionable; but she has taken sides, of that there is no doubt. And the side she has taken is that of a woman scorned.

Let’s be honest, fewer cases of a woman scorned come more humiliating than the scenario Mia Farrow experienced in the early 90s, when her partner of twelve years, Woody Allen, left her for her adopted daughter from a previous marriage. It’s hard to think of a harder hammer-blow an actress in her late 40s could receive than her partner abandoning her for a 21-year-old, let alone one that had kick-started her serial adoption programme. How did Mia react? Well, she immediately alleged her seven-year-old adopted daughter Dylan was a victim of sexual abuse on the part of the man who had just walked out on her.

It seems a long time ago now, but the whole unedifying Farrow-Allen abuse battle was headline news for a good year or so in the early 90s, long before such things became fashionable. Farrow was quite a pioneer in devising new means of vengeance for an injured party. The director who had revived Farrow’s movie career by giving her 12 leading roles in his films was denied access to his children with her for a period, though when enough time had passed since the height of the scandal, Dylan Farrow started the abuse ball rolling again by making fresh allegations a couple of years ago. In response to these renewed claims, Farrow and Allen’s adopted son Moses retorted by claiming his mother was the abuser, albeit physical and psychological rather than sexual. He also alleged Farrow ‘coached’ her children into believing every accusation she’d flung at Allen.

Ronan Farrow is yet another of the numerous children to have filled the Farrow household during the tenure of her relationship with Woody Allen, yet his paternal parentage has bizarrely been attributed to his mother’s ex, Frank Sinatra, who was in his seventies when Ronan was born, twenty years after the end of the short-lived Sinatra/Farrow marriage. He recently added to the renaissance of the abuse allegations by endorsing his sister Dylan’s accusations in ‘The Hollywood Reporter’ via a piece titled ‘My Father Woody Allen and The Danger of Questions Unasked’. He compared Allen’s ‘immunity’ from the law to the current experience of Bill Cosby, citing the advantages that the so-called powerful have over their accusers when an allegation is made as being responsible for the doubts that continue to plague his sister’s allegations. We’ve kind-of heard it all before over here (at least since 2012), though that hasn’t prevented it – as the Kids say – Going Viral.

Eavesdropping on a famous family at war is a horrible voyeuristic exercise encouraged by media outlets that thrive on such scandals, yet the unnecessary intervention of Susan Sarandon when at Cannes to appear at an event called ‘Women in Motion’ (not to be confused with the parallel Cannes event, ‘Women Stationary’) has merely added fuel to the fire. ‘I think he sexually assaulted a child and I don’t think that’s right’ was the earth-shattering observation made by Sarandon that received the most coverage last week. Sarandon said she had nothing good to say about Allen and then added ‘I don’t want to go there’. Afraid you already have, Susan. Ronan Farrow’s contribution to the ongoing scandal was perfectly timed, appearing as it did on the same day as Woody Allen’s latest movie premiered at Cannes, a red-carpet event at which (unbelievably) Susan Sarandon was present.

I confess I am a long-time fan of Woody Allen’s work, particularly the string of movies he produced from the late 60s through to the early 80s (roughly ‘Take the Money and Run’ to ‘Stardust Memories’), and whether he did or didn’t do the dirty with a little girl won’t alter that at all. But I don’t really believe we’ll ever get to the truth of events that did or didn’t occur when he was involved with Mia Farrow because the nature of the arena in which these disputed events have been played out isn’t concerned with the truth. That’s show-business, honey.

© The Editor