Midnight in Paris (2011) – directed by Woody Allen
The prolific Woody Allen has been off his game in recent years, but I can say right off the batt that Midnight in Paris sees a return to form. The film concerns Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood script writer. He is on a trip to Paris with his fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents. Struggling to get inspiration for his first novel, Gill falls in love with Paris all over again and the creative influence it inspires. Going for midnight strolls he somehow lands in the 1920s where he meets the great artists of the time, from the silent surrealists of Bunuel and Dali, to the great authors Hemingway, Scott, among others. Location plays a starring role in Allen’s film as he maneuvers his camera throughout the Parisian streets. Nods to other cinematic references of the time are scattered throughout; the street location from Rivette’s Paris Belongs to Us is immediately recognisable. However, Midnight in Paris does feel at times like a procession of the where’s where and the who’s who in 1920s Paris. This suggests pretension that is all the more emphasized by the stars who line up to play the artistic icons; Adrian Brody, Kathy Bates, Alison Pill, Tom Hiddleston, Marion Cotillard, perhaps all chalking up the “I’ve worked with the great Woody Allen” on their to-do list. However, if you can look past this, then you realise that your recognition of these actors is mirroring what the protagonist is actually experiencing. It’s a clever tool.
I did find myself questioning if Owen Wilson was the best casting for the role of Gil Pender and initially found myself being dragged along by his performance. Midnight in Paris is a film that tends to polarise viewers. There are the cynics who consider it a piece of pretentious muck set in a cliched Paris. Then there are those that put such cynicism aside and just let it take you for the ride. Despite my cynical tendencies I couldn’t help but think the latter was Allen’s intention. Typical of his style, the film is pleasantly buoyant with the fragrance of quick and witty dialogue. Midnight in Paris had won me over, and I found it a tender and innocent search for the true role of the artist, laced with humour.