Dir.: Woody Allen
With: Owen Wilson and half the acting world
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Now that you’re in the mood, I may begin. Woody Allen continues his European tour with this ode to Paris. As with the previous cities, Allen idolises the French capital and paints it in enchanting golden hues. The film opens with a long montage of post card shots of the city’s main sites. This is how you are supposed to imagine Paris if you’d never actually been there. As with London and Barcelona, we do not see the dirt and the grime of city life, instead we are introduced to the blemish-free lives of the well-off protagonists. Or rather, the protagonist. The lovely Owen Wilson plays the main character, Gil, he is a self-described “old Hollywood hack”, on a visit to Paris with his materialistic fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her Tea Party parents. He, on the other hand, is a nice guy, naïve and non-assuming which probably prevents him from having a little faith in his own literary talents. Unlike his soon-to-be family, Gil does not care much for the luxuries offered by the Parisian boutiques; he spends most of his time dreaming of the days gone by – 1920s in particular. He is certain he was born a little too late and finds the present to be completely dull and unsatisfying.
Et voila! One night, after leaving his companions behind, he is picked up by an old car and journeys precisely into Paris of the 20s. The film’s real charm begins here. He meets his literary and artistic idols, from Scott Fitzgerald to Salvador Dali. As he repeats his journey every night, he finds mentorship, advice and friendship amongst the greats. Soon though, the artists and the authors are overshadowed by a mysterious woman, Adriana, who appears to have slept with half the bohemian world. Adriana takes a liking to Gil but she has got the same bug as him – she finds her own time to be too boring and yearns to live in Paris of the Belle Epoque. The scenes that take place in the 20s are much more alive and engaging than the ones in the present, the parties are wilder and the people are more interesting and good-looking.
Don’t worry, I haven’t ruined the plot for you, not at all in fact. I think that if you, like me, love the art and literature from that period, you will fall in love with this movie. The wonderful cameos from all the best actors are an absolute pleasure to watch and I was giggling the whole time at how “accurate” their fleeting portrayals of the personnages célèbres were. The dialogues are highly amusing and there are plenty of memorable lines like ‘so, how long have you been dating Picasso for?’ The art director must have had a field day shooting this because the period look was achieved extremely well. The soundtrack was also derivative of the 1920s and as soon as I got home I looked for songs by Cole Porter and Glenn Miller.
The film itself was too much ‘on the surface’. There is a nice line in it that artists should not be defeatist about life; their job is to offer a way of coping with it. With all its witticisms and indisputable charms the film does not really do that; whatever Gil learns about his life in the present and how to cope with it, it is too cliché and saccharine to have any real meaning. But you know, not every film has to be an essay on the meaning of life, some are there for pure enjoyment and entertainment, and “Midnight in Paris” does so with flying colours. Right now I am feeling very inspired to re-read “Tender is the Night”, go see some surrealist art and buy a flapper dress.
"Midnight in Paris" is out in the UK on the 7th October.