IN PRAISE OF LIVING CINEMATICALLY
My friend Adam has a saying: “Any meal can be a candlelit dinner if you light the candles.”
He was one of my first friends in New York. The first time I visited his apartment for drinks he’d rolled out AstroTurf, dragged a living room’s worth of furniture to his rooftop and assigned everyone a flamingo straw. It was a Tuesday afternoon. If it sounds ridiculous it’s because it is. Adam is as exuberant as they come. All rhyme, no reason. He’ll meet you in Ibiza with sixty euros to his name and insist on being honeymooners for the free champagne. He is kind and irreverent and laceratingly witty and somersaults through life with the kind of let’s-do-it-for-the-fucking-story mentality that turns every dinner into a dinner party.
This is the premise of living cinematically: to treat every moment - however seemingly mundane - like a significant one. The idea anything can – and should – be an occasion. That you can just invent a reason to light the candles instead of waiting for one to arise. It’s leaning into moments. Exaggerating everything but worrying about nothing, the underpinning logic being the kids are alright. That all films have happy endings and the bits in the middle should be as interesting and ludicrous and dramatic and entertaining as possible. It’s decorating a tragic mood with cigarettes and a depressing playlist, knowing that being poor or sick or heartbroken will make for a hilarious anecdote later. It’s the Mitfordian-Waughian-Wildean mentality with frivolity buoyed by unwavering self-belief. Of airing grievances not for want of consolation, but a reaction – an appreciation of the delicious, delicious plot twists! The dialogue! (A particularly un-cinematic habit of many earnest people and all Americans, is missing the point of such operettas, confusing self-deprecating punchlines for moments to offer reassurance.)
It’s also been a fab way to convince myself that my head-in-the-sand approach to finances and life is a fascinating strain of creative genius. And what better place to live out delusions of grandeur than the sweet, hot south of France?! Where every moment looks like Sophia Coppola could have directed it. Where milk teeth are cut on paté and where the table comes first and where nobody treats gluten like it’s MDMA. Where meals are occasions, where conversations are decadent and there’s always, always wine (which exalts both the food and the company and having never witnessed my parents drunk or endure dinner without it, I’m suss about people who rebuff it on grounds of fitness or not wanting to get sauced).
While we’ve culturally appropriated Frenchness to the point of no return, there’s nothing more cinematic than their eating (and reading and existing) in public. Of not waiting for people or occasions to arise to dine properly. What the rest of the world calls self-care or treating yourself they simply consider living well. The French don’t fuck with food-for-fuel. There’s nothing cinematic about wolfing down a protein bar - which couldn’t possibly nourish the body as effectively as it deadens the soul - but there’s something so beautifully, wonderfully, and profoundly cinematic in eating steak alone in a brasserie; of buying a peach at a market, and of dinner parties, dinner parties, dinner parties, at which the candles can always be lit.
A story by Samantha Hillman for The Sunday Paper: Runaways Issue.