A Date With Nostalgia

“Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking — the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in — it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”

This comment comes from my favourite, newer Woody Allen flick, “Midnight in Paris”.  Insufferable, know-it-all Paul offers it as an indirect criticism of Gil, who is working on a novel about a character who owns a nostalgia shop. Gil shares in his character’s penchant for the past and as an aspiring novelist, idealizes F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway and other creative figures of the 1920’s.

In the movie, Gil mysteriously gets transported back to this golden age of Paris each night where he attends parties with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, persuades Gertrude Stein to read his novel and falls for a girl named Adriana, the muse of many of Paris’s famous artists. There is, of course, a lesson to be learned and without giving away too much of the plot, the allure of these characters begins to fade and Gil eventually comes to terms with the era he lives in.

Perhaps it was ironic then that I was so eager to see this movie at Melbourne’s sole remaining classic theatre, The Astor, a few months ago. Built in 1936, The Astor possesses all that old-school glamour I associate with going to the movies during the golden age of Hollywood. The art deco design of the foyer, the grand staircase, the velvet curtain covering the screen, the velvet seats, the velvet finishes everywhere, really. The theatre even has a resident cat.

Adhering to double feature tradition, “Midnight in Paris” was shown alongside “Cafe Society”. I was charmed, by both the theatre and the movies, because despite Paul’s reproach, there is something romantic about classic theatres and the films that were shown in them during their heyday. Classics like “Gone with the Wind”, “The Wizard of Oz” and “Casablanca”. They make going to the movies an event, rather than just a way to pass a couple of hours, and in a way, honour well-made films by showing them in such a beautiful setting.

This sentiment brought my significant other and I back to The Astor earlier this month to see “Manchester by the Sea”. It was the perfect venue to take in this heartbreaking story. The loss and suffering Casey Affleck’s character had to endure was overwhelming. I can understand how it won the Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Following the movie I was in the mood for a good, old-fashioned slice of takeaway pizza, reminiscent of my early twenties when many nights out ended with 2 a.m. pizza. Not quite as elegant as the nostalgia I associate with The Astor, but a tradition I have fond, delicious memories of. Since The Astor is located on Chapel Street — a lively part of the city filled with many trendy bars and restaurants — I thought I would have my pick of slices. I thought wrong.

Every bar and cafe we came across had already closed their kitchen (it was just 11 p.m.). With the exception of Macca’s (Aussie slang for McDonald’s) and Subway, there was no quick, fast food type place. Eventually I thought I found my saviour — a little hole-in-the-wall called New York Slice — but found they had the saddest looking pizza no self-respecting New Yorker would go anywhere near.

I’ve learned two things about pizza in Melbourne since I’ve been here: (1) Melburnians don’t seem to know how to make a proper crust. Even the “good” places don’t quite get it right, and (2) pizza is not the drunk food of choice here, so late night options are pretty much non-existent. If I want to late night eat like a local, I need to have a kebab.

Wanting to satisfy my pizza craving we continued on our way until finally coming across a nondescript place whose kitchen was still open. The menu was pretty extensive, never a good sign in my books (I firmly believe the fewer the options, the better the food), but it included pizza so we stayed. Nothing to write home about (or in this case, a blog about) but it satisfied my craving, and with this, our nostalgia date night came to an end.