Midnight In Paris

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard, and Adrien Brody.
Released: 2011

Woody Allen has a tendency to associate the emotion of love with locations in his films. It is obvious in the likes of Manhattan and in Vicky Christina Barcelona. It seems strange, then, that only now does he make a romantic comedy set in the city of love itself, that of the beautiful Paris, France. And whereas Manhattan and Vicky deal with everyday romance, Midnight in Paris is very much a fairy tale, both in tone and content.

The Plot:
Gil (Wilson) is a successful script writer and struggling novelist. He and his fiancé, Inez (McAdams) are visiting the city of Paris on a business trip. Whereas Gil has a great love for the culture and history of the city that surrounds him, his wife and her obnoxious friends are largely dismissive of its beauty. Suffocating, Gil takes a stroll around the streets at night and soon bumps into some very familiar people.

Unlike a great deal of Woody Allen films, the focus here is not on the topic of sex. To a certain extent, it isn’t even on the more conventional form of love. To be exact, this is a film about nostalgia and learning to love the past without regretting the fact that it has, in fact, passed. A number of romantic encounters line the narrative, but this is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

In one particularly interesting scene, we are presented with none other than Pablo Picasso, debating the authenticity of one of his portraits with Gertrude Stein (Bates). She comments that he has drawn the girl in the picture, Adrianna (Cotillard), in such a way that leaves nothing to the imagination. Because Adrianna is Picasso’s lover, she notes, he puts major emphasis on her sexuality in his painting, allowing the viewer to see only his perspective.

By drawing attention to this, Woody Allen is making us aware of the objective point of view in which he shoots Paris itself. The very first thing we see onscreen is a montage of different locations around the city, at different times of the day and in different weather conditions. We are not simply treated with just the picturesque. He shows us the more modern street corners with fashion outlets and fast food joints, as well as the dingy alleyways spray painted with graffiti. He captures Paris in its entirity in order to make one very important point clear: It is we, the viewers and consumers, that are romanticizing Paris, and not him, the director.

Those who have a love for such rich culture, and who are easily swept up by the magic of such an alluring city, will easily fall in love with this film. In particular, those who have visited the city before and sampled its delights will feel a strong connection with the character of Gil, who wanders the streets simply awestruck. Scenes in which Gil is being suffocated by his fiancé, her family or friends are almost painful to watch, encouraging such a connection.

It is one of the few faults of the film, in fact, that these characters are as detestable as they are. One would wonder, almost immediately, what it is that Gil saw in Inez when they first met, considering she is almost unbearable for the majority of the film. Similarly, although he is hilariously obnoxious, it is difficult to believe that Inez’s friend Paul (Sheen) can function so well in society without being criticized constantly. Of course, these mannerisms are necessary in order for the film to deliver its message and are easily overlooked, especially as they are the source of so much of the films humour.

The film really begins to shine whenever Gil goes on his midnight walks. Through some form of time travel (which is mercifully left unexplained), he ends up back in the 1920s. Famous literary authors and artists are suddenly dancing with him and offering him drinks. An encounter with Salvador Dali (Brody) makes for a particularly engaging scene, but it is Ernest Hemingway (Stoll) who really keeps the ball rolling. Both spell binding and enigmatic, he has some powerful scenes and gets some of the best laughs.

While a love story is clearly taking place here, you may be surprised by the direction that it takes. Marion Cotillard does an amazing job with the love interest, Adrianna. She fully embodies the life which Gil yearns for, and connects with him in that she too yearns to be born in a different time. She manages to be charming without being to forthright and a genuine chemistry is felt between her and Gil.

Excellent performances by the entire cast and a genuinely charming and touching, though slightly aimless, story. Allen presents Paris as a truly romantic location, but without being overly subjective. It is expertly shot, very well written, and will almost certainly have you feeling nostalgic for a time which you never had.

Rating: 8/10

“That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.” – Adrianna

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

This film brought back a lot of memories regarding my own trip to Paris. Some off my favourites of these memories were:

  • Being given a sales pitch for a tour of the city, when the guide in question received a phone call to say she was offered a new job in the middle of the pitch. She then went for a celebratory drink without finishing the pitch.
  • Almost being pick pocketed. When I pulled my bag away, the thief spread his arms and said something in French that I’m pretty sure would translate to “Ahhh, ya got me!”
  • A friend of mine calling a 6-year-old girl a bitch because she had candy floss.
  • Discovering Frogs Legs tasted like tiny chicken legs, and Snails tasted like Garlic snails.



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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi
    Just wanna point that it`s the worst piece of shit I`ve ever seen. For anyone planing to see I should recommend to fuck yourself!

  2. Thanks very much, it might seem a little pretentious to say, (but no less true), a certain degree of sophistication is clearly needed to get a lot of the humor in this film. I mean, it comes entirely from an appreciation of the arts, so……

  3. Just wanted to comment and say nice blog, great to read from people with knowledge of this.

  4. It’s a pleasant time enough. I think some of the comedy can get lost with the rapid fire one-liners and obviously, humor is always so subjective. Owen Wilson and everybody else here are great as well. Nice review.

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