Genre: Drama/Romance Director: Woody Allen Cast: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Michael Sheen, Adrien Brody RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins Released By: Cathay-Keris Films Rating: TBA Official Website: http://www.facebook.com/midnightinparis
Opening Day: 13 October 2011
Synopsis: This is a romantic comedy set in Paris about a family that goes there because of business, and two young people who are engaged to be married in the fall have experiences there that change their lives. It’s about a young man's great love for a city, Paris, and the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.
Woody Allen has, in recent years, found inspiration for his films outside his Manhattan comfort zone- and ‘Midnight in Paris’, set in the very city, is no different. Indeed, it sees Allen at his most playful and most confident, setting up a comic fantasy that recalls his earlier ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’ in its elements of magical realism and time travel. It is also ostensibly Allen’s love letter to the City of Light, showcasing some of the most alluring charms of Paris ure to enchant those (like this reviewer) who have never visited.
Playing the Allen surrogate in this latest is Owen Wilson, a successful hack Hollywood screenwriter named Gil who is looking to redefine himself by writing a first novel. In Paris visiting his soon-to-be parents-in-law with his demanding fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams), Gil finds himself besotted with the place- though less with her smug Tea Partyist parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller) or her pretentious British professor friend Paul (Michael Sheen). So instead of joining Paul and his wife for some post-dinner dancing one night, Gil decides to take a walk through the city by himself.
Just as the clock strikes midnight, Gil finds himself on the Rue Montagne St. Genevieve, where he meets a bunch of American revellers on a passing antique cab. The vehicle turns out to be some magical means of transport that whisks Gil back in time to the Jazz Age of the 1920s. It is the Paris of Gil’s dreams, the man in love with the City’s culture suddenly in the company of some of the greatest artists of the past century- F. Scott (Tom Hiddleston) and Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill), and not to mention Cole Porter (Yves Heck) on the piano at a cocktail party. That very night, Gil will also meet Ernest Hemingway (a very funny Corey Stoll) who agrees to show his novel to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates).
Night after night, Gil will continue on his flight of fancy, rubbing shoulders with literary giants and a who’s who of that era including Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot, Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody in a brilliant stroke of casting). Gil will also fall in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who happens to be Picasso’s mistress. This dalliance also allows Allen to go beyond the superficial and achieve some profundity in his film, meditating on the subject of cultural nostalgia.
As Adriana exclaims, “Surely you don’t think the ‘20s is a Golden Age? It’s the present. It’s dull”, Gil is brought to realise how every generation looks upon the past with reverence and longing, romanticising it as if it were superior to what exists in the present. Gil recognises the similarities between his wistful longings of the ‘20s and Adriana’s own of the Belle Epoque, and consequently the self-deceptive fallacy of nostalgia. The ruminations might as well be Allen’s own, the writer/director’s own musical and cultural tastes dating back to the ‘20s and ‘30s.
And truly, while Allen has always placed his own voice into that of the main character in his films, Gil’s lines in this movie are especially personal, insightful and poignant- and as always wittily scripted. As director, Allen is as always concise (his films usually clock in just at an hour and a half), invigorating the proceedings with his usual breezy pace. ‘Paris’ also benefits from an inspired choice for Allen’s surrogate in the form of Owen Wilson, the latter’s own laid-back charm overcoming the neurotic mannerisms that often afflict previous actors/ actresses who have previously stepped into his shoes.
Besides Allen, the rest of the ensemble cast are also uniformly excellent. McAdams plays pushy and argumentative with more likeability than one could expect, and her co-stars in the modern age- Kennedy, Fuller and Sheen- do their darnest with what are arguably caricatured roles. Allen’s love for his characters of the past are all too apparent, and of the veterans, Cotillard’s spirited performance as a beguiling object of desire particularly stands out. That’s also because of Darius Khondji’s cinematography, which knows and evokes beauty both in the individual as well as the Parisian landscape.
Light and whimsical, yet infused with gentle poignancy, ‘Midnight in Paris’ sees Allen at his creative and artistic best in years, the filmmaker continuing his successful reinvention streak through his tour around European cities (London, Barcelona and his next stop, Rome). And in a case of life imitating art, Allen too is aware that he is to his audience a romanticised object of the past, partly inevitable due to the comparisons between his present and his previous works. In ‘Paris’, he has created a film worthy of some of his most celebrated classics, and it is especially befitting considering how deeply personal it is.
(Both whimsy and wise, ‘Paris’ finds Allen both playful and insightful, a work of art destined to be one of his classics)