Allen’s Magical “Midnight in Paris” by Joseph Misuraca

Posted on November 22, 2012


I confess that I hadn’t ever seen a Woody Allen film before I viewed his successful 2011 comedy, Midnight in Paris. I was blown away by the ingenious script and brilliant directing. Lovers of Paris will savour every moment of the film’s opening, where Allen introduces the main sights of the romantic city: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, Tuileries Gardens, Champs-Élysées and Notre Dame. Throughout the film there are more visual delights, from the palace and gardens of Versailles to the impressionist Musée de l’Orangerie. Even if you’re not a fan of Woody Allen, even if you want to punch him in the face because you can’t stand his anxious persona or wittiness, you should still watch this to indulge in the feast of decadent French imagery. The cinematography is impressive and each scene is bathed in a red intense glow reminiscent of the warm lights in European cafes and bars.

Gil just scoping the Seine.

Allen has judiciously selected the ideal actor for the lead role. I find Owen Wilson insufferable in most of the trashy American comedies he stars in, such as Wedding Crashers and Starsky and Hutch, but he was simply born to be Gil Pender – the Hollywood scriptwriter turned struggling novelist who is on vacation in France. Rachel McAdams plays his antagonistic fiancée, Inez who is backed by her annoying conservative parents, John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy). While Gil daydreams about the Golden Age of 1920s Paris, Inez is planning outings with her parents and her pseudo-intellectual friends Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol Bates (Nina Arianda).

Gil has a penchant for drunkenly wandering the streets of Paris, and at midnight the magic begins: a 1920s car rolls round the corner and its passengers invite Gil to accompany them. The passengers are the Lost Generation: F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The costumes and settings of the period segments are so exact that you feel transported to the smoky bars filled with artists and dilettantes. Gil uses these secret midnight sojourns into the past to try to get his novel up to scratch, and scrambles to figure out how he can remain in Paris.

Oooo, what an enchantress!

Gil has the opportunity to show his manuscript to none other than Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and to listen to the ramblings of pugnacious Hemingway (Corey Stoll). This would make any writer watching envious. My favourite cameo was Adrien Brody’s perfect portrayal of the eccentric and entrancing Salvador Dalí, with his hypnotic speech and vivacious disposition. During his time with the Lost Generation, Gil also forms an relationship with Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Pablo Picasso’s mistress. She, like Gil, is torn between two worlds.

Woody Allen’s usual dry humour is contained in some memorable lines; there is also one particularly amusing scene involving a private detective hired to spy on Gil. Allen delivers a clear and simple message: we should not long to be in a Golden Age when one does not exist. Allen cleverly leaves the mechanics of time travel to the audience’s imagination; he truly knows how to force an audience to suspend its disbelief and enter a world free of temporal boundaries.

I’m glad Allen won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. After watching Midnight in Paris I want to catch a flight to the city and, like Gil, enjoy walking in the rain.

If you’d like to read more of Joseph’s film reviews take a look at “Biutiful” is Inarritu’s Beautiful Elegy by Joseph Misuraca or The Enchanting Allure of “The Lovely Bones” by Joseph Misuraca.

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