Just watched Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris again (first time was on an airplane en route Beijing, as it turns out) and thinking of what no doubt would strike many as a radical if not ridiculous idea. Namely, how does the Paris of the 1920s compare with contemporary Beijing. Of course, for those who have seen the film, there’s more than one ‘scene’ at work–I’m talking Hemingway/Picasso, not Lautrec, for what its worth–and the strength of Allen’s script no doubt is its clever take on nostalgia for what may never have existed. Still, the depiction of a vibrant cultural scene, with artists and writers debating the aesthetic way forward as if to be looking for the one and only point of egress to proper being itself does bear some interesting similarities with what’s happened in China in contemporary period. To put this mostl bluntly, then, can we view present-day Beijing as THE global cutting edge?
In suggesting this I am also aware that the very notion of a “cutting edge” may well be passe (strikes me suddenly that that sentence required a French word). In fact, it may never have had validity in the first place. On the other hand, viewing Allen’s film is only one additional reminder that the idea of some geographical CENTER housing the most current form of expression continues to have strong showing in the cultural imaginary, right or wrong. Moving forward, I suppose, might entail establishing the criteria for arriving at identification of such a center, from which point we would “measure up” the Chinese scene.