Monday, July 09, 2007

Art and Reality

It is raining again. A neighbor somewhere in my apartment building is playing the piano, a piece that I often hear him -- or her? -- practicing. Somehow I picture a lovelorn man poetically swaying over the keyboard, eyes closed, deep in remembrance and emotion. The music is lyrical and evocative. Ravel? Debussy? No, more recent, I think. I don't know my composers well enough to recognize it. Maybe it is his own composition, because usually he plays just the haunting refrain, which then fades as he strums softly on the keys trying to rework his effort. Then silence, drifting.

The lilting notes still echo through the courtyard, and I have the impression of having heard this very tune long ago, a score at the end of a black and white film, a French romance, with a failed love story. In it, the couple mournfully leaving each other, one descending stone steps under the pressing raindrops, the other gazing out the car or train window, pining, regretting what will never be. The camera fades. The credits roll.

So much of Paris often feels like the backdrop to a movie set: the architecture, the crowds, the sounds, the narrow streets. Scores of individuals in every quartier who could be from Central Casting.

The confusion of art and reality is never stronger than Paris on a cold and rainy afternoon.

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