“Midnight in Paris”
An Intellectual Woody Allen Film
I am not a big Woody Allen fan although I have really liked some of his films. I had heard friends speaking about “Midnight in Paris” and the gist of what I got is that some really loved it while others really hated it. I had no idea what the movie was about aside from being set in Paris so when I sat down to watch it, I had no preconceived ideas and quite honestly, I loved the film from start to finish.
“Midnight in Paris” is a romantic comedy about Gil and Inez who have travelled with Inez’s parents to Paris for business reasons. Gil is forced to face the illusion of a life very different from the one he lives. He and Inez are engaged and have tagged along with Inez’s parents who are on a business trip. Gil is a writer and is struggling with penning his first novel. He immediately falls in love with Paris (don’t we all) and wants to move there after his wedding but Inez does not share his enthusiasm. Gil is also obsessed with the 1920’s, the Jazz Age, when Paris was alive with expatriates and artists. When Inez goes out with her friends, Gil explores Paris at midnight and as he takes his walks, he bonds with the city and becomes less interested in his fiancée as he discovers a new inspiration for writing. We see Paris as Gertrude Stein did, “exciting and powerful”.\
Allen once again serves us nostalgia and romance as he is known to do—by stressing the imperfections of life and this film deals with temptation and delusion. Using a bygone age (Paris in the ‘20s) alongside his own brand of magic and realism, we see how to live in the present. Gil (Owen Wilson) experiences the past as he deals with his own present and I must say that he has his Woody Allen down pat—his facial expressions are amazing. Engaged to marry Inez (Rachel McAdams), he is a successful Hollywood writer and an idealist—the opposite of Inez who is materialistic and who wants him to become wealthy so that they can have the kind of life that she was raised in. Gil dreams of escape and moving to Paris like his literary heroes, Fitzgerald and Hemingway, did.
Gil soon experiences the 20’s as he meets the luminaries—Picasso, Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda (Alison Pill) Fitzgerald, Dali (Adrien Brody), Gertrude Stein (the always wonderful Kathy Bates), Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Bunuel, T.S. Eliot, Braque and so on. (I love this period as well and my M.A. thesis was on this period and the influence of Lesbianism and Judaism on the writings of Gertrude Stein). He experiences friendship and a mentor in Stein and through her he meets all of the who was who in Paris. He falls in love and comes to terms with himself as a writer. The past gives him the opportunity to experience history on a very human level. He begins to understand the nature of man as he succumbs to Paris with her realism and delusions and learns to hope for a present that will provide love and inspiration for him.
Midnight is a mysterious time that is magical and it gives Gil the chance to face what he really loves about life and what he dreams about. Becoming lost in Paris, he is rescued by socialites who were the famous Fitzgeralds and he experiences epiphanies about himself as he realizes who his new “friends” really are.
The film moves back and forth between time periods and as it does, Paris becomes Gil’s mistress as he falls into her seductive arms. He falls in love with Adriana; Picasso’s mistress, played wonderfully by Marion Cotillard whose presence lights up the screen. She lives for the moment and to me, at least, she is Paris in all of her seductiveness, beauty and magnetism. She moves from man to man, place to place and time to time; never losing any of her charm or sinuosity.
The film opens with a montage of shots of Paris and we fall for the city right away. (I had so many wonderful memories as I watched). The film goes on to show us how life was in another time and we see that perhaps the world of yesterday only exists in our dreams and that we are never really happy where we are now– it is always better somewhere and sometime else. I love Wilson’s portrayal of Gil (Woody Allen), a nebbishy writer who wants to publish a novel but just can’t get it finished and I found this to be the most intellectual of Allen’s films and also one of his best. This is one you do not want to miss.
Keep your eyes peeled for the first lady of France, Carla Bruni Sarkozy in a cameo as a museum guide.