The Characters referenced in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (Part 8, Henri Toulouse Lautrec)

Owen Wilson as Gil in "Midnight in Paris." 2011 Roger Arpajou / Sony Pictures Classics

Owen Wilson as Gil in “Midnight in Paris.”

I am currently going through all the characters referenced in Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris.” Today I will be discussing Henri de Toulouse Lautrec.  By the way, I know that some of you are wondering how many posts I will have before I am finished. Right now I have plans to look at Geores Brague, Dali, Rodin,Coco Chanel, Modigliani, Matisse, Luis Bunuel, Josephine Baker, Van Gogh, Picasso, Man Ray, T.S. Elliot and several more.

Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

Very early when he arrived in Paris, Vincent met him at the Cormon workshop and they quickly became friends.
Toulouse-Lautrec will introduce him to many painters and merchants during the weekly afternoons that he organizes at home. He will take him to the Mirliton, Aristide Bruant’s cabaret, for the first time.
He wants to challenge the painter de Groult to a duel, as the latter criticized Vincent’s paintings at an exhibition.
The duel won’t take place because de Groult will apologize to him.
Toulouse-Lautrec is deeply affected and sad when he learns about Vincent’s suicide and he will come to his funeral.

Paul Gauguin and Henri Toulouse Lautrec were the greatest painters of the post-impressionists. They are pictured together in 1890 in Paris in Woody Allen’s new movie “Midnight in Paris.” My favorite philosopher Francis Schaeffer did a great job in his film series “How should we then live?” looking at the artists of this period and I wanted to share a couple clips from that film and a portion of the written outline. First, here is a brief biography of Lautrec’s life.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec was born on November 24, 1864, in southern France. Son and heir of Comte Alphonse-Charles de Toulouse, he was the last in the line of an aristocratic family that dated back a thousand years. Today, the family estate houses the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. As a child, Henri was weak and often sick. But by the time he was ten years old he had begun to draw and paint.

At age twelve Toulouse-Lautrec broke his left leg and at fourteen his right leg. The bones did not heal properly, and his legs ceased to grow. He reached maturity with a body trunk of normal size but with abnormally short legs. He was only 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

Deprived of the physical life that a normal body would have permitted, Toulouse-Lautrec lived completely for his art. He dwelt in the Montmartre section of Paris, the center of the cabaret entertainment and bohemian life that he loved to depict in his work. Dance halls and nightclubs, racetracks, prostitutes – all these were memorialized on canvas or made into lithographs.

Toulouse-Lautrec was very much an active part of this community. He would sit at a crowded nightclub table, laughing and drinking, meanwhile making swift sketches. The next morning in his studio he would expand the sketches into brightly colored paintings.

(Currently in Little Rock the exhibit “The Impressionists” presented by Harriet and Warren Stephens has the “Study of a Woman” by Henri Toulouse Lautrec. I saw the exhibit and enjoyed it very much.)

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Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Study of a Woman (Etude de femme). (1893)

In order to join in the Montmartre life – as well as to fortify himself against the crowd’s ridicule of his appearance – Toulouse-Lautrec began to drink heavily. By the 1890s the drinking was affecting his health. He was confined first to a sanatorium and then to his mother’s care at home, but he could not stay away from alcohol. Toulouse-Lautrec died on September 9, 1901, at the family chateau of Malrome.

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How Should We Then Live Pt 7

AGE OF NON-REASON

I. Optimism Of Older Humanist Philosophers:

The unity and true knowledge of reality defined as starting from Man alone.

II. Shift in Modern Philosophy

A. Eighteenth century as the vital watershed.

B. Rousseau: ideas and influence.

1. Rousseau and autonomous freedom.

2. Personal freedom and social necessity clash in Rousseau.

3. Rousseau’s influence.

a) Robespierre and the ideology of the Terror.

b) Gauguin, natural freedom, and disillusionment.

C. DeSade: If nature is the absolute, cruelty equals non-cruelty.

D. Impossible tension between autonomous freedom and autonomous reasons conclusion that the

universe and people are a part of the total cosmic machine.

E. Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard and their followers sought for a unity but they did not solve the problem.

1. After these men and their followers, there came an absolute break between the area of meaning and values, and the area of reason.

2. Now humanistic philosophy sees reason as always leading to pessimism; any hope of optimism lies in non-reason.

III. Existentialism and Non-Reason

A. French existentialism.

1. Total separation of reason and will: Sartre.

2. Not possible to live consistently with this position.

B. German existentialism.

1. Jaspers and the “final experience.”

2. Heidegger and angst.

 

C. Influence of existentialism.

 

1. As a formal philosophy it is declining.

2. As a generalized attitude it dominates modern thought.

IV. Forms of Popularization of Nonrational Experience

A. Drug experience.

1. Aldous Huxley and “truth inside one’s head.”

2. Influence of rock groups in spreading the drug culture; psychedelic rock.

B. Eastern religious experience: from the drug trip to the Eastern religious trip.

C. The occult as a basis for “hope” in the area of non-reason.

V. Theological Liberalism and Existentialism

A. Preparation for theological existentialism.

1. Renaissance’s attempt to “synthesize” Greek philosophers and Christianity; religious liberals’ attempt to “synthesize” Enlightenment and Christianity.

2. Religious liberals denied supernatural but accepted reason.

3. Schweitzer’s demolition of liberal aim to separate the natural from the supernatural in the New Testament.

B. Theological existentialism.

1. Intellectual failure of rationalist theology opened door to theological existentialism.

2. Barth brought the existential methodology into theology.

a) Barth’s teaching led to theologians who said that the Bible is not true in the areas of science and history, but they nevertheless look for a religious experience from it.

b) For many adherents of this theology, the Bible does not give absolutes in regard to what is right or wrong in human behavior.

3. Theological existentialism as a cul-de-sac.

a) If Bible is divorced from its teaching concerning the cosmos and history, its values can’t be applied to a historic situation in either morals or law; theological pronouncements about morals or law are arbitrary.

b) No way to explain evil or distinguish good from evil. Therefore, these theologians are in same position as Hindu philosophers (as illustrated by Kali).

c) Tillich, prayer as reflection, and the deadness of “god.”

d) Religious words used for manipulation of society.

VI. Conclusion

With what Christ and the Bible teach, Man can have life instead of death—in having knowledge that is more than finite Man can have from himself.

_____________________________________

Comedy. Starring Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel Mc-Adams, Kathy Bates. Directed by Woody Allen. (PG-13. 100 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)

Was there ever really a golden age? And if so, did people know it at the time? Are people even capable of recognizing a golden age when they’re in the midst of one? For Woody Allen, whose musical and cultural tastes run to the 1920s and ’30s, these questions have probably fueled countless daydreams. And now out of all that rumination comes “Midnight in Paris,” a movie that’s loving and wistful and often hysterically funny.

Romance is built into the design. A screenwriter, who has always been nostalgic, visits modern-day Paris and falls through a ripple in time: On a Paris street, a clock strikes midnight, and a 1920s taxicab drives up. F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald are inside, and they take him to a party. Though at first the writer thinks these are faux Fitzgeralds and that he’s at a costume party, he soon realizes that this is the real deal. He is surrounded by the music and styles he loves and is mingling with his idols and artistic heroes.

Our hero’s dislocation keeps the movie as light as it needs to be. Meeting celebrities can be awkward enough, but meeting legends of the past – the eagerness to please would be overwhelming. Yet always there is an edge of poignancy, too, because you are looking at the ’20s through the eyes of a modern person, as a world that is, by definition, past. The past is always romantic because it’s gone, just as the future is always frightening because you’regone.There’s an idea about Paris at work here, as well. Allen takes the notion of streets alive with the past and makes it literal in “Midnight in Paris,” so that everything that has ever happened in this city never goes away. It’s alive with parallel worlds – which is sometimes how we feel when we visit great cities like Paris, Rome or New York.Gil (Wilson) finds himself able to go back and forth between his own time and the ’20s, and so we keep feeling the contrast. In the 21st century, he is engaged to an awful spoiled brat played without compromise by Rachel Mc-Adams. Meanwhile, in his nightly ’20s rambles, he is falling in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who is having an affair with Picasso. As was the case with Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” Woody Allen brings out, for the first time in an American film, the fire and allure Cotillard has shown in her European work.In the meantime, in between all the longing and wistfulness, this movie is sidesplitting because Allen gets to tap into an inexhaustible source of comedy: Whenever he wants a laugh, or 10 laughs, he just introduces another writer or painter and plays to our expectations. Every scene, for example, involving Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) is a scream, because Allen has him talk the way Hemingway wrote. There is even a Man Ray joke here. And if you know Luis Buñuel’s “The Exterminating Angel,” you’ll fall out of your chair when Gil starts feeding him movie ideas.Adrien Brody shows up as the young Salvador Dalí – good casting. Alison Pill looks very much like Zelda, though Tom Hiddleston is too tall for Scott Fitzgerald, who was just a little bigger than Woody Allen. But Kathy Bates is just right as Gertrude Stein, as businesslike and motherly as you’d want her to be.— Advisory: Lots of smoking – they didn’t know better in those days.E-mail Mick LaSalle at mlasalle@sfchronicle.com.

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