This time around, I will give a glance at the prominent position of the near, modern past in two current movies: Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” (2011) and Richard Ayoade’s “Submarine” (2010). Neither of them are history movies, honestly depicting historical material. Instead they are blatantly using the past as fantasy for the present imagination, placing them insistently in the field of retromania.
Through “Midnight in Paris” the fantasy comes alive with the protagonist walking into a lifelike cultural fantasy of the art scene bohemia of the 1920’s Paris. And it works as an inspired antithesis to the dull and disenchanted present, making a fruitful ‘present past’. Even though there are traps that shall not be revealed here, “Midnight in Paris” supports the temporal fantasies with a predominant approval of the cultural nostalgia as a legal strategy, both fulfilling and revealing this nostalgic fantasies.
“Submarine” is a temporally more twisted affair. Away from glamourous Paris and glorious fantasies of avantgarde heroes and welcome to snotty teenagers in the Wales province some decades ago. Exactly when is not good to know. Chosen emblems of 1980’s popular culture and technology occurs in a distinctly 1960’s and 1970’s like environment with simoultaneus cronological defects and details. Thus, we are puzzled about the meaning of the setting: Should it be plausible as an illustration of provincial delay? Is it just an aesthetic backdrop, setting a mysterious light upon it, half a tone beyond reality?
The usual temporal signifiers in this kind of movies, the soundtrack, gives no clue. It is made of a song suite from the present by Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. The pictures themselves are in clear, diffuse retro texture, with selected scenes miming a handheld camera as a specific mood creator.
This undefined, but characteristic past setting is both kind of dystopic and strangely attractive. This combination is typical for retro, surrounding the past with irony and nostalgia.