Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, is his glowing tribute to the French capital. His work has always been well-received in France, and it’s clear that this isn’t a one-way relationship.
Midnight in Paris opens with a beautiful montage of the city, reminiscent of the beginning of his 1979 masterpiece, Manhattan. As with Manhattan, the tone of Midnight in Paris is very much one of adoration, except that this time it’s the adoration of an obvious outsider.
Gil Pender (played surprisingly well by Owen Wilson), a typical Allen surrogate, is a frustrated Hollywood screenwriter who longs to make it as a novelist. He’s in Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents, John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy).
Gil quickly becomes bored with the flashy side of the Parisian lifestyle and one night decides to take a stroll, leaving his wife alone with her friends. As the clock strikes midnight, Gil finds himself transported to Paris in the 1920s, where he bumps into all kinds of legendary figures, from F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) to Salvador Dali (played either ridiculously or brilliantly by Adrien Brody).
This suits Gil perfectly; in the modern world he’s crippled by nostalgia, and he’d much prefer to have lived in the 1920s. He soon realises, however, that his nostalgia is not only absurd but commonplace.
It turns out that the alluring Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Picasso’s mistress, isn’t happy with living in her time, either; she’d much rather be around during the Belle Époque. Similarly, when they arrive in Adriana’s chosen period and meet legendary artists Degas and Gauguin, it becomes apparent that they too are not satisfied with the time in which they live.
Thematically, this is pretty much it; it’s a fundamentally light film. It therefore can’t really sustain comparison with Allen’s earlier comic masterpieces (such as Annie Hall or Manhattan), which managed to be hilarious whilst still having depth. Ultimately, however, Allen’s still as intelligent and funny as he ever was. Some of the film’s literary figures are brilliant parodies, especially Hemingway (Corey Stoll), with his clipped, macho talk of courage and bravery (and those rhino-hunters he
There is also Inez’s friend Paul (played expertly by Michael Sheen – even if his American accent’s a little overdone), a classic Allen antagonist. He’s a pedantic pseudo-intellectual, a self-proclaimed expert on everything from French wine to Monet. He even refers to Shakespeare – without a hint of irony – as ‘the Bard’. The only shame is that he isn’t on screen longer.
While Midnight in Paris isn’t among Allen’s best, it is nevertheless a charming film which is definitely worth seeing. It’s also certainly the closest he’s come to a return to form in well over a decade.
Midnight in Paris
Showing at FACT