Saturday, March 19, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

I ran across a home movie of Montmartre today, filmed in the 1940s; I've embedded it here. I find it interesting because it so closely resembles my own video of the same area, taken just days ago.

“The more things change, the more they remain the same.” That's what the title of this post means, and it's certainly true in the case of these movies. Some of the places shown in the 1940s movie look exactly the same today. I recognize practically all the spots featured in the video. Some stores have changed, but their façades have not, nor has the layout of the tiny streets in Montmartre. People dressed differently (in a more ugly way, I think) back in the 1940s, and Paris looked a lot dirtier and poorer, and buildings were covered in soot (modern city ordinances have eliminated this by requiring regular cleaning). The standard of living was dramatically lower. But most of the basic stuff is the same.

It reminds me of Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, in which he describes some of his early life in Paris (with some dramatic license). We don't have goats roaming the street's with their masters to provide fresh goat's milk any more, and buildings today are connected to municipal sewer systems for the most part, rather than cesspools, but most of the fundamental elements are the same. Of course, the cost of living has gone up even faster than the standard of living. But most of the places that Hemingway describes still exist today. Heck, there's a small, nondescript bakery on the rue de Richelieu that celebrated its two-hundredth birthday last year. In my hometown in the U.S., nothing is more than about 130 years old, and practically everything is less than 20 years old, and much of the city looks nothing like it did even ten years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Blog Archive