-- 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.
were heady and heavenly days.
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.
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."
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.
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.
minutes later the doorbell rang, and into the room stepped Jean-Luc
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.
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."
Monsieur Godard, yes, they do look alike!" the eyepatched
writer raved. The rest of us nodded our agreement.
slumped lower. "In Hollywood they do not want thees feelm."
idiots!" called out my fellow student Bob, embalmer turned
fools!" echoed Liz, the most promising poet amongst us, also
the dourest and blondest.
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.
PAGE 1 2 3
version for easy reading
material is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission|