Friday, November 07, 2008

The Young and the Restless in Paris

Watching low forms of popular entertainment gives one the tingle of shame shared by the female readers of novels in the 19th century. Or in the spirit of postmodernism, kitsch is so good because it is so bad. I am a little ashamed to say that for about a year I have been following the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless at least once or twice a week. This bad habit began at Clemson, where I would come back home to cook lunch and eat by myself. Now that I am spending more and more time at home with a newborn, Y&R has provided some mindless narrative to highlight adult feeding time.

Y&R has gone to Paris this weeks. For a variety of reasons, a bunch of the show's characters have ended up in Paris. Although many of the scenes are clearly montaged into a French background, some are filmed on location. Paris still holds a special spot in the popular imagination. Having the characters visit the famous streets, neighborhoods, cemeteries and medieval monuments in person reassures the aura of the original work of art. I'm watching the episode closely because, in my survey of art, I am dealing with popular culture's Parisian expectations. I know my students are taking the class to prepare themselves for those magical wonders like Notre Dame Cathedral. Art historical knowledge is never free of expectations; the American love affair with Paris is inescapable. Albeit at a more popular level, Y&R illustrates this fantasy. And frankly, if popular culture did not continue to relish the Parisian fantasy, nobody would major in Art History. At the bottom of the cultural spectrum we have Y&R in Paris, while at the top, we have the Metropolitan Museum's Americans in Paris, 1860-1900, a blockbuster exhibition.

In my art history survey, I've been continuously connecting the art of the past with the expectations of the present and I will certainly share clips when we visit Notre Dame Cathedral, where Ashley Abbott experiences a revelation. She stands in the West portal while the camera pans across the monument, and later she walks around the back and prays to a statue of Saint Raymond Nonnatus, "patron saint of infants who were never born." The camera zooms back and forth between her radiant blond face (soft focus) and a detail of the medieval statue. It's reassuring to know that medieval scultpure still retains its popular appeal. Her prayers come to life when Victor (whom everyone is searching for) appears in front of the same statue.

For the full episode of this most up-to-date version of Americans in Paris, you can see a short promo here. For a closer reading of this cultural text, the entire episode (38:29 mins) can be watched here. I have put together a little minute-by-minute guide to the relevant parts of the show

(00:50-03:01) Nick and Sharon have a telephone conversation; they realize that they both happen to be in the Left Bank
(03:01-03:22) Ashley visits Notre Dame Cathedral; camera details portal
(21:32-21:34) General shots of Notre Dame
(21:34-23:10) Noah (Nick's and Sharon's son) and Eden, who are in Paris on a school trip, have a conversation. Eden tells Noah that she wants "to feel the city," wants to visit Père Lachaise Cemetery to visit the graves of "Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Jim Morrison)
(23:11-23:42) Ashley talks to a nun on the side of Notre Dame and is directed to the statue of Saint Raymond
(26:30-26:50) More on Saint Raymond, "patron saint of infants who never were born"
(31:59-32:30) Phyllis (Nick's wife) arrives at the Park Hyatt Hotel. View of exterior (exuding with status). Walks into Nick's room (studio set) but does not find him there
(32:30-33:42) Nick and Sharon meet up at Bistro La Maison to have a coffee; there's lots of flirtation and Sharon holds Nick's hand.
(33:42-35:25) Climax of episode. Ashley stands in the gardens behind Notre Dame and prays to the statue of Saint Raymond. Soft focus close-ups of Ashley's face are broken by zooms on the medieval statue (33:53, 34:19, 34:35, 34:47, 35:11). Victor appears magically behind Ashley.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm really liking the Paris storylines and location shoot. I'm really exited about what's yet to come too!

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States