Tonight I've been watching a lovely and very charming small film called "5 to 7". It's new--- released this year ---but it reminds me so much of Eric Rohmer's films. I've recommended it to friends I know who fancy both Eric Rohmer and Whit Stillman. It's very much the sort of film I wish I could watch with a lovely friend. Tonight I'm watching "5 to 7" with a bottle of chilled Riesling--- always a good thing ---but it's a film that does call for a lovely young companion there at one's side.
The plot of the film is simple enough. Young American in Manhattan, twenty-four and a would-be writer, falls into an affair with a lovely Frenchwoman not quite a decade older--- married, of course, with two children and a diplomat husband. She makes it very clear that she enjoys being with him and that he's a fine lover. She also makes it clear that the two of them can exist only for two hours on a given day, the two hours where she can be apart from social and family obligations and be part of a world of her choosing. There's a hotel room that's theirs, but there are also days when their two hours are spent at parks or films or museums. Yes, a movie where people...talk. Where an affair is as much about talking as it is about sex.
The boy learns the rules of the affair as they go. The two of them can be seen together in the street or at a cafe. She can take his arm as they walk, but not his hand. They cannot kiss on the street or in the park. He's amazed at what he's learning, at being part of something that's like the novels he read at university or the films he watches on his MacBook. He's literary enough to be thrilled by having rules to learn, by realizing that he's part of something from another culture, another world.
I'm remembering what I wrote about earlier this month, about the affair I had in my twenties with the woman who was the food-and-wine critic. I remember parking my car and walking up the street to the address I'd been given--- the apartment she'd borrowed for us. I'm remembering that it was in a renovated block, one of those streets that had fallen into the kind of genteel ruin that the city was famous for, something expensively re-done to look like it was a ghost from the nineteenth-century. There was an inner courtyard; I do remember that. She told me later that the apartment was in the renovated servants' quarters. I remember it was upstairs, and I remember envying the books on the shelves and the carefully-arranged Mediterranean air to it all. I can't recall what I must've been like that spring. Twenty-five or twenty-six, almost certainly with hair cropped short and spiked, probably a boy in a dark blazer and jeans, maybe in grey flannels. I may or may not have had a white streak dyed in my hair--- just the kind of affectation I'd have liked. I remember her as very tall, with elegant eyeglasses and a Scandinavian last name. She always talked about the way the city was famous for its creolization of food and drink and culture, but her own fashion style was very severe. I remember feeling so incredibly adult about it all. After all, it was everything I'd read about--- an older, attractive, married woman with knowledge of things like food and wine, a borrowed apartment in a moneyed-bohemian part of an aging city that lived off its own legend.
It wasn't quite 5 to 7, but it was late afternoon into mid-evening. She was a food-and-wine critic; I suppose she could tell her husband that she was out at tastings or at restaurants. She wanted to take me to an opera once. I remember that--- the invitation ---although in the end I couldn't go. Her voice wasn't local; I remember that, too. She'd been born in northern California and raised in Seattle. But I remember her leading me from the kitchen to the bedroom and saying, "I hope you don't think I'm being too bold." At twenty-five or twenty-six I'd have been stunned by everything--- even that line. Yes--- yes. There were afternoons where I could watch the shadows at twilight from the bed in that borrowed apartment. It really was like being in a novel. I kept telling myself that, kept telling myself that it was like finding myself in just the kind of story I'd have wanted to write.
Those are kinds of memories an affair should generate. You'll have very few times like that in your life. That's obvious. But the chance to spend even a few weeks or a few months having those experiences, to feel yourself launched into something with a literary pedigree---- always take that chance. And hold on to the memories. And affair goes on not just in bed, but in the memories it leaves you with, in the sense of having stepped into another world.