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By Amy Friedman

Lately -- in part because I'm finally admitting to firmly being middle aged, and, too, because of recently watching Jean-Luc Godard's Notre Musique -- I've been waxing nostalgic about a snowy night decades ago when I was a graduate student in New York City, taking a course called something like "Art Life and Civilization." There, in our melancholy professor's coldwater flat, we would-be Master's of Fine Arts students brimmed with hope borne of the end of the war in Vietnam and the start of what felt like a more promising era. We never imagined life wouldn't just become better and better as we talked dreamily, admiring each others' writing, staying up too late, drinking too much.

Those were heady and heavenly days.

But the night I most remember happened in snowy February. I considered skipping class that night. I lived on Manhattan's Upper West Side, and our professor's place was on the Lower East Side. Riding the subway meant a return trip at midnight, alone; that felt too dangerous. So despite my gorgeous but lemon-like lemony yellow Karmann Ghia, I decided to drive.

That night a visiting writer was in attendance. He wore an eye patch and spoke down to us. "You see, when you know about Life as I do," he droned on, "you know it is Art that matters. As Stendahl wrote to his friend, ... I prefer the pleasure of writing bits of nonsense to that of wearing an embroidered coat which costs 800 francs. That is how a true writer must feel."

We were a motley crew wearing grungy jeans and tattered tees and shaggy hair. Naturally we nodded agreement. Embroidered coats were for plebeians, for economists and lawyers, this last being most offensive.

When the phone rang our professor left the room to answer, and when he returned he said, "someone's coming to visit," implying by his tone that someone wasn't just anyone.

The room began to buzz, but I was distracted, checking outside where snow had begun to fall faster. Four floors below, my car looked small and insecure.

A few minutes later the doorbell rang, and into the room stepped Jean-Luc Godard.

We gasped. If anyone could teach us about Life and Art, Philosophy and Film, Politics and Pleasure and Pain it was Godard. Weekend and Breathless -- that's what we were, all of us breathless as Godard slumped into a corner of the shabby couch. He wore thick eyeglasses and an overcoat frosted with ash and melting snow. He smelled like cigarettes and something sweet, something French or perhaps Swiss, something at any rate exotic. The dingy room suddenly was brighter. We moved closer to him.

We sat at his feet. His eyeglasses steamed. Out of the cold he'd come, in a coat too large, with tired feet and droopy eyes. He held a film treatment, but no ordinary treatment; Godard did nothing ordinary. This was a Godard-style treatment, a photo collage he'd been taking around to studios on the other coast. "Diane Keaton and Robert DeNiro," he said, and we looked down at photos of the two stars side by side, from a distance, then in close-up, in profile, from behind, lit by neon. Godard continued. "They will play identical twins in my next feelm. Set in Las Vegas."

"Ahh, Monsieur Godard, yes, they do look alike!" the eyepatched writer raved. The rest of us nodded our agreement.

Godard slumped lower. "In Hollywood they do not want thees feelm."

"Illiterate idiots!" called out my fellow student Bob, embalmer turned novelist.

"Freebasing fools!" echoed Liz, the most promising poet amongst us, also the dourest and blondest.

"Barbarous bandits!" added Diane, my best friend. Diane usually shunned mob-think, the only one of us who hadn't marched against the war. That night, though, she was caught up in the thrill of the throng.

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