The Moderns

If you’ve been following 1926: A Year in Classical Music, you might be interested in Alan Rudolph’s 1988 film The Moderns. It’s set in 1926, starring Keith Carradine (who played Wild Bill Hickock on HBO’s Deadwood series) as an American painter who lives and works in Paris, as part of its bustling arts scene. He runs into his ex-wife, played by Linda Fiorentino (who also played the lead in Dogma, and Will Smith’s love interest in Men in Black), whereupon drama ensues.

According to Roger Ebert, the film is actually a source study that shows us things that Ernest Hemingway saw while he was working in Paris at the time — things from his own life and times that he incorporated into his books The Sun Also Rises and A Moveable Feast. Kevin J. O’Connor plays Hemingway in The Moderns.

The film focuses on writers and painters but not classical musicians so much. The one major reference to a classical musician comes towards the end, when Wallace Shawn’s character says he just saw Maurice Ravel in the restroom of a cafe. So that’s something of a missed opportunity, as the Paris arts scene in 1926 also included such notable composers as Igor Stravinsky, Walter Piston, George Antheil, George Enescu, Leevi Madetoja, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc and the rest of Les Six, and Sergei Prokofiev.

Still, it’s a good-not-great love story set in the artistic capital of the Western world, in the same year I chose as the first year of study for A Year in Classical Music. I recommend it — I give it a B-.

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