Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Versailles: A Palace for a King

When I lived in France I went to Versailles several times. A couple of times I went inside the palace and gawped at all the opulence, but most of the time I just strolled around the gardens, sat by the fountains and enjoyed the more intimate surroundings of the Petit Trianon. When I heard that an exhibition was coming to the National Gallery of Australia 'featuring the treasures of the palace', I went along to see how these objects would reveal themselves out of context.

I had always found the grandiose nature of the palace quite oppressive and it's hard to focus on single objects when surrounded by such glittering wealth and shiny bling. Those who have never been there could get a feel for the place by standing against a backdrop of the Hall of Mirrors.




Louis XIV transformed Versailles from a humble hunting lodge built by his father into a vast luxurious palace. The construction took place over nearly half a century from 1662, in times of peace with pauses during the many wars of this period. The architect was Louis Le Vau; the overall designer and decorator was Charles Le Brun, the King's First Painter; and the gardens were designed by Andre Le Notre.

Louis XIV's image as an absolute monarch was reinforced throughout Versailles with royal insignia, allegorical reference and classical iconography. The king is shown in the guise of Apollo, the ancient Greek God of the sun - hence his title, The Sun King - or represented as a Roman Emperor.



At Versailles, Charles Le Brun's designs included every detail, from great ceilings enriched with stucco and paintings, to polychrome marble panelling and gilded wooden doors, down to intricate handles and locks. The highest standard of materials were employed: porphyry; alabaster; coloured marbles; ebony; and other precious woods, silver, gilding and mirrors.

Sculptures appear everywhere. Reliefs are set into the building's interiors and exterior. Portrait busts or life-size figures, often from antique models, stand in niches or adorn corridors, tabletops and mantles. A large number of bronzes and marble works are featured in the gardens. As well as Apollo, we find examples of classical mythology, such as Latona, Flora, Ceres, Bacchus and Saturn.




A guiding principle of Versailles was that it must, above all, represent French taste, design and craftsmanship. The palace was inspired by Italianate traditions and, although many of the artists commissioned by Louis XIV were Italian or Flemish, the King's patronage was essential in establishing France as a centre for arts and culture. Versailles became an ideal to which the rest of Europe could aspire. I recently enjoyed watching Season One of Versailles. It is probably woefully historically inaccurate but it casts the Palace as a character itself as Louis XIV dreams of building a monument to the glory of France surtout. My affection for the place enables me to overlook the series' faults,

In 1662 Louis XIV acquired the great Gobelins workshop and supported it with major royal commissions such as tapestries and carpets. These tapestries and paintings record some of the interiors and spectacular works of art at Versailles, many of which no longer exist. When a coalition of European powers joined forces against France in December 1689, the king was obliged to melt down his famous silver collection to fund the war effort.


Louis XIV visits the Gobelins with Colbert, 15 October 1667 - The tapestry is from the series Histoire du Roi commissioned by Charles Le Brun and woven between 1667 and 1672. 
In 1665 six bronze vases were commissioned by Louis XIV to house orange trees. Janus heads, sphinxes, satyrs and chimeras demonstrate the king's enthusiasm for classical images and motifs drawn from mythology. While none of Versailles' famous silver furniture survives, these vases offer a rare glimpse of the goldsmith's craftsmanship and convey an idea of the lost furniture.

 

Unlike the Sun King whose entire life was on display, Louis XV and his grandson Louis XVI preferred to live more privately at Versailles. On the death of his great-grandfather in 1715, Louis XV took up residence in Paris but returned with his court to Versailles in 1722. New suites of apartments were constructed, deliberately conceived as private spaces with a skillfully devised system of concealed doors set into the wood panelling or behind hangings. Access to Louis XV's Petits Apartments was restricted to a few favoured courtiers.


Madame Adelaide at her writing table in her apartments at Versailles (1776) - Louis-Lie Perin-Salbreux
New informality and  domesticity appear in images of the royal family and aristocracy. We see people promenading, enjoying music and relaxed dinners, and partaking in fashionable indulgences such as drinking chocolate. Changing styles and an enthusiasm for new technology and the exotic is reflected in furniture and other objects. Cold marble is replaced by the warmth of wood in all its forms: parquetry; wall panelling; gilded scrolls; and the combination of colours and patterns used in cabinetry.  

The Royal Family in 1782
 
 

The dauphin's desk was part of a refurbishment of the South Wing apartments for the marriage of Louis-Ferdinand to his cousin Marie-Therese Raphaela of Spain in 1745. It was used for barely two years. Following his wife's sudden death in July 1746, the dauphin was obliged to remarry and the apartments were again fitted out.

 
There are some really rather gorgeous pieces, such as this clock and this whatever-it-is decorated with a crab. When seen all together they are often too much, but in this isolation, they are simply splendid.



Versaille's Labyrinth was located west of the Orangerie in the southern part of the gardens. Originally conceived by Andre le Notre in 1665 as an undecorated maze, the crossroads of each path were furnished in the 1670s with 39 fountains decorated with 330 painted lead animals illustrating classic parables. These new additions were inspired by the publication of Jean de La Fontaine's Fables 1668, dedicated to Louis XIV's six-year-old heir.

About twenty artists worked on the fountain sculptures; the naturalism of the figures produced suggests they were likely inspired by the animals in the nearby Menagerie. Each group was accompanied by Isaac de Benserade's verse summarising the fables. The Labyrinth was one of the most popular parts of the garden. Visitors could find moral truths hidden within the remarkable scenes. Among these were that all people were not created equal and the evils of social ambition.

After years of neglect the maze was replaced in 1774 by the Queen's Garden. Only thirty-five animals, and the statues of Aesop and Cupid from the entrance, survive. Fortunately the maze was immortalised in Labyrinthe de Versailles 1679, which includes descriptions, Benserade's poems and Sebastien Leclerc's etchings of each fountain group.

 

Gardens were Louis XIV's passion. In less than twenty years the unpromising site of Versailles was transformed into a showcase of France's wealth, power and prestige. During the ancien regime the estate of Versailles occupied 15,000 hectares: the formal garden around the palace; the Petit Parc for carriage rides around the Grand Canal; and the Great Parc reserved for the hunt. The palace grounds now cover an area of 815 hectares, the area of the old Petit Parc.

Andre le Notre, Louis XIV's first landscape designer, included fifteen groves laid out on either side of the Royal Avenue. These secluded 'salons of greenery', garden rooms contained by densely-planted trees and hedges, were settings for activities such as walking, dining, music, play, and entertainment. Subject to changes in taste and fashion over the years, areas of the gardens were constantly altered and rebuilt - even demolished and replaced. In 1676 Jules Hardouin-Mansart began redesigning the garden. He created new groves with a marked architectural character, including the Colonnade Grove built in 1684. Three hundred sculptures decorated the parterres, avenues and groves, creating an open-air museum in the park of Versailles.

Perspective View of the Three Fountains at Versailles (1689-91) - Jean Cotelle
The kings of France had a passion for hunting. The sport served to initiate young princes and to educate them in the art of war. As a child Louis XIV developed a fondness for his father's hunting estate and the forest of Versailles. With its long wooded avenues suitable for galloping, the Grand Parc spread far beyond the boundaries of the Petit Parc. Many types of hunting were practiced: falconry; shooting with dogs to flush out pheasants, partridges or hares; and big game such as deer, boar and wolves.

Hunting was considered an entertainment on par with theatre, ballet and opera. On average Louis XIV, XV and XVI hunted every third day. An invitation to join the king was considered a mark of favour as court customs dictated that members of the royal family hunted only with those closest to them. As a result, being permitted to share the king's intimacy and take part in the traditional débotté or removal of boots was much coveted, as was the meal served in his private chambers on return from the hunt.

The grand dauphin's hunting dogs (1702) - Alexandre-Francois Desportes
Versailles was conceived to host celebrations, showing the king in all his magnificence. Courtiers and foreign visitors were drawn to the royal residence as witness to these events. Numerous engravings assured the fame of the king's 'divertissments', recording the feasts, fireworks and other activities in their most remarkable and yet ephemeral of moments. The management of the king's entertainment required a special department, the office of the Menus-Plaisirs (royal entertainment).


Military or diplomatic victories, births or marriages of princes gave occasion for the most extravagant of celebrations. Over the span of several days feasts alternated with dinners, masked balls and fancy dress, plays and operas, lotteries and carousels, and finished with fireworks and illuminations. The fireworks astonished with flashes of silver and gold, their frightening thundering noise sometimes amplified by the sound of canons. 

Fifth Day: Fireworks on the Canal at Versailles - Jean Lepautre
These events reached their peak in 1674 when the Grand Canal was lined with magical scenes all lit up at the same instant by a regiment of soldiers. In 1770 for the wedding of the dauphin and Marie-Antoinette, the entire gardens were illuminated by 16,000 lamps lit in less than three minutes.

The Masked Ball given in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, 25 February 1745 - Charles-Nicolas Cochin
On the marriage of the dauphin to Marie-Therese, Infanta of Spain, Louis XV had the grand Apartment decked out for a masked ball. He dressed as a topiaried tree (accompanied by seven courtiers dressed in identical fashion) surrounded by figures in a range of fancy dress, including those in bizarre Turkish-style costume with over-sized heads.

Under Louis XVI when celebrations became less frequent at Versailles, royal entertainment centred on the Petit Trianon. Marie-Antoinette hosted music and theatrical events, opening her estate to visiting guests who experienced 'divertissments' on a more intimate scale.

Marie-Antoinette's night festivities at the Petit Trianon (1785)- Claude-Louis Chatelet
Louis XV and his mistresses, first Madame de Pompadour then Madame Du Barry, spent considerable time at the 'Marble Trianon' or Grand Trianon. Built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, the Grand Trianon was a place for parties and country outings. With suites opening directly onto the parterres, boundaries between the inside and outside dissolved. The flower garden, a tribute to the goddess, Flora, housed the rarest blooms. The king's interest in science led him to botany and in 1750 his three gardens housed more than 4,000 plant species.

In 1762 Louis XV had Ange-Jacques Gabriel design a new small house, the Petit Trianon in the emerging neoclassical style. The square exterior has Corinthian columns and plasters on the facades. Flowers dominated the interior - on the wood and upholstery of chairs, on the inlaid furniture, on bronze and porcelain - designed to please the king's new favourite - Madame Du Barry.

 

However at the death of Louis XV in 1774, Marie-Antoinette took possession of the Petit Trianon. Its modernity and remoteness from the main palace and court etiquette appealed to the new queen. She spent increasing amounts of time there with only her closest friends. The last phase of the Petit Trianon was the Queen's Hamlet, a series of buildings with a rustic character: farm, cottage, mill, dairy, barn and dovecot. In this reconstructed pastoral idyll Marie-Antoinette indulged in simple pleasures such as drinking milk, fishing and walking in the fields. 

Queen Marie-Antoinette (1783)
Part of the 'Pearls and Cornflower' service
The Pearls and Cornflower service commissioned by Marie-Antoinette in 1781 was probably intended for the Petit Trianon. The service comprised 283 pieces - required for a full French-style dinner suite for 24 people - and took many months to complete. Cornflowers were the queen's favoured motif and appear throughout the decoration at the Petit Trianon.

The Palace at Versailles epitomises the complex absolute monarchy created by Louis XIV, elements of which continued through the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. However, the extravagance proved unsustainable and, although the king attempted reforms, it was too late. By 1788 France was bankrupt. 

Through the formation of the National Assembly in 1789, political power shifted to the people. On 20th June 1789 the deputies of the National Assembly congregated in an indoor tennis court in the district of Versailles and, in what was to become a pivotal moment in the history of the French Revolution, pledged an oath 'not to separate, and to reassemble wherever circumstances require, until the constitution of the kingdom is established.'

The Oath of the Tennis Court at Versailles, 20 June 1789 - Jacques-Louis David
In October the Palace was stormed and the king and queen were forced to live in Paris under a kind of house arrest. The royal family never again occupied Versailles. The monarchy was formally abolished in September 1972. Many items from the palace were dispersed, including at auctions between 1793 and 1794. Versailles was designated a museum in 1797 and later, in the 1830s, became the Museum of the History of France. 

The Palace and its gardens were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979 and, from 2003, have been the subject of an ambitious restoration and renovation programme. Many objects have been returned, either from the holdings of public museums or purchased from private collectors. The interiors and gardens of Versailles continue to reflect the glamour and opulence of court life under Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI.

Louis XVI writing his testament in the Temple tower, 20 January 1793 - Henri-Pierre Danloux

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Raging Laughter with Julia Morris



Julia Morris - Lift and Separate
Canberra Theatre Centre

Julia Morris is a woman of a certain age - those are her words; not mine. Apparently this calls for age-appropriate clothing, botox and homicidal hormonal rages. She plays to (and with) her audience, which is largely female, and shares knowing laughs with them on a range of tailored topics.

Beginning with an exhortation to the audience not to use their phones, she helpfully poses in a variety of attitudes which she says we may recognise throughout the show. These involve delightfully undignified positions which she allows the audience to capture with their mobile cameras before turning off the devices - this fun but no-nonsense approach sets the tone for the evening.

Hindered and abetted by a slide show, she highlights images of her daily tribulations in retail outlets as she tries on ridiculous clothing and claims to be haunted by inverse body dysmorphia - she always thinks she looks gorgeous. Because of her willingness to mock herself and her self-deprecating charm, she quickly wins over her audience and they soon join in the laughter and the wry smiles.

We all know what it's like when a minor incident irritates us beyond all proportion and we get angry at the tiniest misdemeanour. But we probably can't articulate this feeling as amusingly as she does. While we may wince for the hospitality staff who bear the brunt of her outbursts over the time one can serve eggs or the rationing of towels in a hotel, we are more entertained than empathetic.

Julia explains her heavy workload may have added to her inner ball of fury. As she worried that her market value would wane with her advancing years, she seized every opportunity to increase her profile. This leads to highly intimate anecdotes of her time in African jungles filming I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, but it also frames a very real issue.

Women everywhere struggle with the personality changes and hormone imbalances that accompany ageing and menopause. Many of them suffer in silence, but not Julia; Julia turns it into comedy material. This is brave and brilliant. I loved it.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Friday Five: Nouns that are not verbs

And the logical continuation of last week's post...


5 Nouns that are not verbs:
  1. Parent - a parent is a person. A parent (hopefully) loves, nurtures, raises, cares for, looks after, educates, protects, cherishes, tends, nurses, encourages, reprimands and inspires their child. Any one of those words provides meaning and clarification. Interestingly (well, I think so anyway) - 'mother' and 'father' can act as both nouns and verbs. The verb 'mother' apparently means to bring up a child with care and affection. It can also mean to look after someone kindly and protectively, sometimes excessively so. The verb 'father' means to become the father of a child be making a woman pregnant. There seems to be an incompatibility between those words.
  2. Medal/ Podium - if someone trains or works hard and has talent and aptitude, he or she may compete in events and win/ obtain/ achieve/ secure a medal. The medal in question could be gold, silver or bronze, in which case the contestant may win/ obtain/ achieve/ secure a place on the podium in first, second or third place. The person does not 'medal' or 'podium', whatever the commentators and newsreaders may say.
  3. Top Score/ Red Card - another commentating misdemeanour found in many sports is the usage of 'top score' as a verb, when someone has actually scored the most points. This offence is usually committed in basketball, which is American, so what would you expect? It is worse when one hears it from cricket commentators who should know better. When a player is shown a red card in football, we used to hear that they had been sent off; nowadays they are more likely to be said to have been red carded, which used to be something that happened to wool. 
  4. Friend/ Unfriend - I admit this is an interesting one as it has come about as a reaction to a specific technological development. When one sends a friend request on Facebook and is accepted, one is said to have been friended. "I'll friend you on Facebook," say young people when they are seeking cyber social interaction. After a while someone makes a snap judgement which offends the sensibilities of someone else and rather than having a rational discussion which could possibly inform and educate both parties, one 'unfriends' the other by blocking their future banal posts. Friendship is no longer a relationship to be nurtured and grown through good times and bad; it has become something which happens at the touch of a button.
  5. Action - Employing the worst of business-speak, some people say they are going to 'action an item', when they mean they are going to do a thing. I presume this is because an agenda will have items that result in action points as people take on tasks. Once again, there are many words that could be used to inform others of the intention to execute/ carry out/ accomplish/ implement/ enact/ engineer/ administer/ put into practice/ perform or simply 'do'. It seems that business types don't like to use a simple word where a trendy or convoluted one will do. They think it makes them sound more important and intelligent. They should know that the exact opposite is true.


Monday, 26 June 2017

Frozen: Let It Go


Ice by Louis Nowra

(Allen & Unwin) Pp. 322

In the 1880s British entrepreneurs Malcolm McEachern and Andrew McIlwraith tow an iceberg to Sydney and introduce locals to ice. It goes down a treat, but as the iceberg melts, the frozen body of a young sailor is found within it. Malcolm is lost in grief for the death of his wife, Ann, and he attempts to preserve her memory. A parallel story is narrated by a young man who takes over his partner’s research work (she was writing a biography of Malcolm McEachern) after she is frozen in a coma. Images and metaphors of arresting time resound throughout the novel.

Early Sydney comes alive through the impressions of the young men as they first arrive. It is a character in itself, defying description and confounding assumptions; full of possibilities as people flee the Old World and try to reinvent themselves in a land of opportunities. Malcolm is always chasing the latest business venture: he brings refrigerated meat from Australia to London, electricity to Melbourne and order to the Tokyo electric tram system. He is attracted to what he calls Australia’s “dirty prism of classless democratic optimism” which allowed him to succeed in business.

Malcolm is clearly a man’s man, dismissing women as inferior and the representation of women within the novel is astoundingly weak. Malcolm’s mother remarries and excludes him from her life, and his second wife, Mary, is unkindly portrayed as some sort of harpy, despite the fact that his treatment of her is appalling. He mourns his first wife, Ann, building her a mausoleum – a weird subterranean world of bottled embryos – and Mary disappears into the background to lead a separate life.

The telling of Malcolm’s story is full of things that biographers could not have known but must have imagined; as the tale proceeds the narrator becomes increasingly unreliable. Ann dies, which is convenient, because live women are so messy, and Malcolm is distraught, but is the narrator talking about himself or about Malcolm? “Until he’d married her he had been unloved and she had awoken love in him, as surely as if it were a delicious, sweet emerging from melting ice. She had given him a purpose, a sense that he was human and loving, but a callous God had snatched her away from him, scooped his insides out and rendered him hollow.”

The references to being frozen in form and time are both literal and metaphoric as the lines between subject and biographer blur. The frigid purity of ice is contrasted with the warm sensuality of the body. Malcolm makes a wax effigy of Ann and keeps it in his catacombs where he builds a room for her and visits her for necrophiliac purposes. “It was as if she was frozen, like the perfectly preserved American sailor excavated from the iceberg.” The similarities with the drug – “the drug that ruined your life and mine” – are not accidental.

Malcolm’s time is one of great change and discovery and he himself is a man of science and technology. The scientific developments of the age – X-rays; atoms; telephones; electricity – become confused with spiritualism and mesmerism because “The boundaries between the possible and impossible were quickly narrowing at an astonishing pace.” Mary believes that, “Scientists belong in the darkness of their laboratories, not in the bright light of society.” Darkness and secrecy, however, lead to obsession and madness, which will always be revealed when exposed to the light.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Friday Five: Verbs that are not nouns

You are invited
I know that language changes and develops and is not set in stone. I studied linguistics and etymology and I agree that language is a metaphorical rich tapestry. I love the smorgasbord of our polyglot vocabulary based on an olio of portmanteau words and phrases. I do, however, desperately dislike the way many otherwise intelligent people use words out of their correct context when there are plenty of available words they could use instead if they weren't so lazy or slavishly devoted to the current fashion of worshiping youthful inexperience and ignorance. 

I realise that as long as one can make sense of what is being said, then the aim of communication has been achieved, and that this is perfectly acceptable for someone who does not speak English as their primary language, or is a child. My point is simply: if you are fortunate enough to know how to speak properly, you should do it. Some basic abuses of the English language that will always make me judge the perpetrators are the attempt to use nouns as verbs (more of which later) and vice versa.

5 Verbs that are not nouns:
  1. Invite - One invites someone to attend an event; if one is lucky, one receives an invitation to attend. I really don't understand why this is difficult to comprehend.
  2. Intercept - Sporting commentators are not exactly esteemed as oracles of oratory, but they are generally responsible for this breach of grammar. When a player latches onto a pass meant for another player in football, rugby, hockey or netball, it is an interception, not 'an intercept'.
  3. Build/ Rebuild - I blame Reality TV for many things as it happens, but one is the proliferation of using words out of context because the perfectly adequate word that already exists is somehow simply not cool enough. For example, when renovating or reconstructing a house, presenters and 'contestants' often refer to 'the build' or 'the rebuild' as they pull down walls and rip up floorboards.
  4. Eat - I really hate this one. When people ask where they can go to get 'some eats', it takes a huge amount of restraint to refrain form telling them exactly where they can go with their 'fake language'. Do they mean meal? Do they mean food? It's almost as bad (but not quite) as adults referring to a delicious treat as 'tasty noms'. This puerile expression comes from Sesame Street's Cookie Monster. Yes, the character was cute and everything - when you were a child. Even on a programme which featured brightly coloured puppets trying to cope with the simple mechanics of life, he wasn't exactly the brightest crayon in the box. So why would any adult wish to imitate the sound he made when stuffing his face? It's not cute or endearing; it's pathetic and irritating. Stop it. 
  5. Disconnect - Whenever anyone says something along the lines of 'there is a disconnect between parties', I assume they went to business school but didn't manage to graduate, and I automatically discount their opinion. Yes, I know they may have something interesting and worthwhile to say, but as there is a disconnection/ discrepancy/ divergence/ division/ dichotomy/ detachment/ breach between their thoughts and their words, I can't be bothered to listen.
A furry blue muppet with the speech ability of a three year old.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

La La Land: a note to follow So-So Land


It starts with a traffic jam: suddenly someone gets out of their car and starts singing and everyone else joins in and dances through the stationary cars to music which is being played by the token illegal immigrants hidden in the back of a lorry. Then they all get back in their cars and the blockage mysteriously clears and they all drive off except ditzy Emma Stone who is looking at a map to tell her how the hell to get out of this mess before it's all too late. The bloke in the car behind her (Ryan Gosling) blares his horn and overtakes her in a disgruntled manner which is highly understandable being as he's had to sit through a West Coast version of Fame for the last ten minutes.


Emma Stone goes to a coffee shop in a film studio where she works, and stars swan in and out and people spill coffee on her. She goes to auditions where people are rude to her, and when she doesn't get the part it is the end of the world. She lives with three other models in primary-coloured dresses who go to parties, but she feels out of place there because it's oh-so-hard to be beautiful and misunderstood. They dance around like The Wiggles or The Spice Girls Minus One (Probably Mel C; the one with the talent) - 26 seems a bit old to still be going through this adolescent angst, but she does it with a very pretty pout.

The Bland Girls
After ten tedious minutes of her story, we return to the traffic jam (we really are getting nowhere fast) and take it up from the point of view of the hornblower (Ryan). He talks to his sister in a scene in his flat which is meant to indicate how poor he is because there is a stain on the wall and he's got no furniture. They swap lines like 'Unpaid bills are not romantic' and 'I want to be on the ropes. I'm letting life hit me until it gets tired and then I'm going to hit back', but don't worry about getting to know the sister because once she has set up the exposition, she disappears never to be seen again.

Ryan Gosling gets fired from his job as a pianist in a restaurant for blatantly disobeying his boss's directions to only play the set-list. He is so upset that he rudely barges past Emma Stone who was coming to tell him how much she had enjoyed his playing. Time passes (we know because the titles helpfully tell us that we have moved through the seasons) and Emma Stone indulges in more bad auditions and pool parties - poor love.

Play something we know!
She meets Ryan again at a party where he is playing keyboards in an 80's tribute band. To get her own back for his previous rudeness, she requests the band play 'I Ran', which he later tells her is an insult to a serious musician (36 is definitely too old to be having adolescent pretensions). He should be so lucky; it's the best piece of music in the whole film. As they walk back to their cars they have a 'moment', which provides the opportunity for the typical teen I-Hate-You-But-I-Love-You routine. Cue for a song about a Waste of a Lovely Night, which has some decent lyrics and choreography, like something out of a Doris Day film, but only if you couldn't care less about Doris, and she couldn't sing or dance.


Ryan then pops to the coffee shop where Emma works (drawn, one supposes by her looks, because there is nothing attractive or even apparent about her personality) and she tells him how much she loves it there and dreams of being an actor. He reciprocates by explaining that he dreams of being a musician and having his own club. Things look up briefly when she says she doesn't like jazz, but plummet rapidly when he attempts to justify how great it is and we have to endure some random musical noise.

Although she wants to be an actor she has never seen Rebel Without a Cause, which shocking oversight can only be explained by her utter self-absorption. Ryan, who is slightly more aware that there may be other players in the entertainment field, says he'll take her to the pictures 'for research' and then walks along a pier into a beautiful sunset, singing a merry song and nicking an old bloke's hat.

Where did you get that hat?
Next day Emma gets a callback which is supposedly brutal (but actually realistic) and looks forward to going out with Ryan until her boyfriend turns up and takes her out to a meal about which she had forgotten - both the meal and the boyfriend it seems. You needn't get attached to him either because, after hearing some piano music that reminds her of Ryan, Emma ditches the dinner and the boyfriend, and runs to the cinema. She selfishly stands in front of the projected image at the front of the screen (thus blocking the view of all the other patrons - but since when did she care about anyone else?). Just as Emma and Ryan are about to snog in the cinema, the projector burns through the screen and she still never gets to see how to make a decent film.

Serious code violation
Instead, the couple continue their date at Griffith Observatory where the fight scene from Rebel Without a Cause was filmed (see how multi-layered this thing is?). Apparently it is a gravity-free zone and they are soon floating around among the stars like a cross between E.T. and Mary Poppins, and they finally get to kiss. This is clearly inspirational as Emma Stone then writes a play (as you do) and her model chums pop up for one more scene to be told that it is a one-woman play and they are soon to be left on the cutting-room floor.

ET meets Mary Poppins

More seasons pass (we are helpfully told by the addition of inter-titles, such as are used in silent films - if only...) and there is a montage of Emma and Ryan visiting things, going to parties, laughing youthfully, riding cable cars and walking had-in-hand. He plays pianos in bars while she dances unselfconsciously in the middle of the pub. They are in love. And, presumably, living together.

Look at me, everybody!
Some bloke in a tight yellow polo-neck offers Ryan a job but he says he'll Never Work With Him. In the next scene Ryan Works With Polo-Neck Bloke and takes the gig (partly because Emma has pointed out that he might actually earn some money). The band they play for lays dub and techno over trad jazz - which is apparently what the young people want, because no one is interested in old jazz anymore and all the innovators are dead. Emma goes to see the band, but they are popular, which disappoints her and she looks like someone has strangled a puppy because success is so vulgar. He goes on tour with this band and is highly successful and makes lots of money but is Away A Lot and doesn't call every day.


Meanwhile Emma quits her day job (despite all the obvious advice) at the cafe by symbolically handing in her apron, and she becomes a writer, by shaking hands with people and scattering pieces of paper all over the floor - it really is that easy it seems! Once more we move through the seasons until we hit Fall, which is a METAPHOR!

Ryan comes home for a surprise visit and cooks a giant chicken or a fatted calf or some enormous hunk o' meat. He tells her he is going to stay in the band for a few more years and keep touring and making money. They fight because this may be The Dream but it is not His Dream and he has sold his soul to the Electrical Keyboard Devil. Then Ryan sets the kitchen on fire and the smoke alarm takes over the high-pitched whining, and Emma runs away (her penchant for escaping mid-meal is clearly the latest in Hollywood dieting chic).

Emma books a theatre to perform her play, which only about half a dozen people attend, which isn't surprising as Ryan has told her to 'write something as interesting as you are.' The performance clashed with a photo shoot for his band so Ryan didn't make it, which is a deal breaker and she goes home to Middle of Nowhere Land to give up on her dreams. But, a casting director was at her play and really liked it and phones Ryan to ask Emma to audition for a thing in Paris. He goes to find her (by parking in suburban streets and blaring his horn) and passes on the message - she has a needy, whiny 'I'm not good enough' moment, but he is all supportive and they drive back to Hollywood to Make It Happen.

Self referential audition 'song' about how hard it is to be an actor
At the audition she is asked to tell a story and, displaying a gross ineptitude at following directions, she sings a song instead - perhaps the film has suddenly remembered it is meant to be a musical? Of course she gets the part because this is all unbelievable nonsense. Fast forward five years and she is a big star, married to Someone Else, and buying her coffee from the cafe where she used to work.

Emma and Someone Else go out to dinner and stumble into a basement bar which would you Adam and Eve it, of all the jazz joints, in all the towns, of all the world... Ryan is also living his dream and their eyes meet and there is a dance number montage of how life could have been if they had stayed together. If only the whole film had been like this without the tedious bits in the middle, it would have been quite good.  But it wasn't. And it isn't. The End.