Unexpected moments of pure magic

Watch that, okay? It's not long, and you'll like it. 


If you've watched comedian Louis CK's show, Louie, then maybe you've seen this before. If you haven't watched the show, you should watch the show. There are plenty of reasons—the show is never quite what you expect it to be, swinging in different directions from moment to moment: it's sometimes crude, sometimes painful, sometimes self-conscious, or funny—but this moment, which came from nowhere in the most recent season, is not only my favorite scene from any season of the show, but might be one of my favorite moments of television in recent years. 

What I like about it is that you don't really need any context: everything you need is here on the screen, if you're paying attention. There's the gently-nervous energy of Louie introducing his youngest daughter to this woman, and when he describes her as a 'friend,' you can hear the details of the relationship that Louie's leaving out, tucked behind that word. There's the moment of surprise on Louie's face when his friend reveals her violin; he's pleased to have discovered a new side of her. But watch his face when his daughter accompanies the woman on her own instrument: that's childlike wonder, parental pride, delight in the kind of moment that will become a memory to be held for the rest of his life. But there's more: there's his surprise that his daughter knows the Hungarian word for 'hello,' a realization that the little girl is more complex than he suspected, that she has a world that exists beyond his daily interactions with her as a father; there's the neighbor woman's knowing glance at the little girl, communicating instruction to her wordlessly, which the little girl understands instinctively; there's the pure spontaneous excitement of what's happening on this apartment landing, these worlds crashing together to produce a brief moment of lovely music. And when it ends, you learn even more: that the extent of the little girl's exposure to Hungarian begins and ends with the word for 'hello'—she uses it to say goodbye, which means she's using the only word she knows, however inadequate, or that she simplified the word's more layered meaning when she explained to her father what it meant. She dumbed it down for him, in effect, which says an awful lot about their relationship. And there's the music itself, which a (very quick) search suggests is a classical interpretation of a very old Hungarian folk song—which also suggests the girl is more layered than her father has previously thought. Where did she learn Hungarian words, Hungarian music? There's no answer provided; the moment is so honest that none is needed. The absence of exposition, explaining it away, only contributes to that magic. The moment ends as quickly as it begins, and the magic departs as the neighbor returns to her apartment to carry out the trash; Louie's daughter hopes to extend this magic a little further—like a head cold you've beaten but want to fake for another day to get out of going to school just once more—but is snapped back to the humdrummity (yep, made that word up just now) of her daily routine by her father's no-nonsense insistence that she's going to do her homework now. 

But what I love most about it is that this moment was conjured from nowhere on a show that's really not all that fantastical. Louie's usually quite straightforward, depicting small stories in the life of a divorced dad who's trying to balance career and family, who doesn't quite know how to be himself. There are small suggestions, though, that magic does exist in this world, and that you can't manufacture it—it manifests itself, reveals a glimpse of something powerful and moving, and then flits away just as quickly. 

I'm going to shut up now and just watch that scene again. I'll be humming that melody all day.