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There's something about the midnight hour, something special, mystical,
and magical. In the case of this marvelous movie, its impact is fully
realized, as we see our protagonist suddenly realize that he has the
opportunity to face that which he truly admires, treasures, and dreams
about. In the opening scenes, he expresses his desire to settle in the
city of lights, and we know it's not going to be an easy thing to do.
His girlfriend and he are quite different in their appreciation of what
being in Paris means. She understands it's special, maybe from an
aristocrat's point of view. He might be looking at it, as the dream
place for an artist to find aspiration to fulfill his artistic goals.
One night, he wanders into the streets of Paris and finds himself lost, only to find himself rescue by a party of night socialites who turn out to be quite famous in some literary circles. Soon, the screenwriter/aspiring writer has an opportunity to see himself living one of his dreams as well as slowly come to some surprising epiphanies as he discovers more and more who his new acquaintances might truly be, and most important what their dreams really are.
The film is set in several time periods, and Paris glows intensely and seductively in everyone of those. From its overcast skies and reflective streets, showing lovely architectural details and its magnificent landmarks to the superb and lovely recreations of older time periods, one can't help being seduced, charmed, and inspired to find a way to show what a special place, and consequently what a truly magical film this might be.
Performances are outstanding all around, with Cotillard once again stealing every second she is on the screen. Through her eyes and carefully delivered lines, we understand what attracts us to this special time and place. She is a gorgeous and very talented performer, one who might be truly aware of her standing, yet she doesn't dwell on it. She attracts many types, but her philosophy is unique, move on, enjoy, live the moment. In a way, she is like the city that has inspired Allen, and many others before him. Paris as a place might not be aware of its magnetism, its beauty, and its power. Cotillard's muse is the perfect human equivalent, a dazzling and potent woman, who moves from man to man, place to place, time to time, and who surprises us with her own wishes near the end of the story.
Wilson inhabits the Allen persona, and he does a very good job, not creating a tired imitation, an annoying cliché that could have ruined the perfect balance of sight, sounds, and insightful dialog, keeping this masterpiece way ahead of the best Allen has offered before. For those of us who gasped during the fantasy sequences of "The Purple Rose of Cairo", the marvelous recreations of the stage in "Bullets Over Broadway", the dissection of relationships in many of his best films, get ready to see it all finally come together, as he picks from the best, and adds his personal touch, with many a funny and clever observation, uttered by Wilson with a honest and complete sense of wonder. Unlike many of his leading men, Wilson displays an innocence which allows him and us to see his adventures in a fresh light.
"Midnight in Paris" is a beautiful display of what movie magic can truly create, a sense of wonder long gone from contemporary cinema; This is a movie that entertains, teaches, and wears each one of its elements, like Paris bewitches us with every light, every facade, and every heartbeat of its music.
Woody Allen's love affair with France, which goes back decades, finds its finality with "Midnight in Paris," the latest of Allen's Parisian brochures, which recently opened at the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. The good news is that Allen seems to be paying attention in a way he hasn't always done in recent films, and has found a way to channel his often-caustic misanthropy, half-comic fear of death and anti-American bitterness into agreeable comic whimsy. The nominal point of "Midnight in Paris" is that we've all got to make the best of life in our own time while longing for a past that probably never existed. If anything, Allen seems to be rebuking himself, ever so mildly, for his compulsive romanticism, his obsession with the past and his disconnection from contemporary American life. Allen has baked us a sweet, airy Parisian dessert with just a sense of sentimental substance in the finish. One of his better films in his latter years.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Woody Allen's latest is beautifully written and a charming story that
belongs in the top ten of his all-time greats. From the opening montage
of lush, picturesque Parisian scenes the film is a love letter to the
city of lights. Owen Wilson is perfectly cast as Gil Pender a Hollywood
writer who has penned his first novel about a man who owns a nostalgia
shop. Throughout his stay in Paris he hearkens back to the iconic
characters who once roamed its winding cobblestone streets.
For everyone who sometimes ponders how life would be in another time, this film through whimsical storytelling and pure fantasy transports us. Perhaps that elusive world does not really exist or we are never truly content in whatever station we reside. Gil is enraptured with discovering the bistros where Ernest Hemmingway once wrote or the idea of living in garret with a sky light.
His fiancé played by Rachel McAdams who adroitly depicts a character both shallow and blasé and content to listen to the pseudo-intellectual musings of her onetime flame. To discuss the plot much further and divulge the magic twist would be a shame.
Midnight in Paris is a gourmet meal of delectably charming and playful scenes. Adrian Brody is riotous as a surreal artist and Kathy Bates deftly evokes a wise and famous writer. A character in the film remarks of seeing a movie but, she cannot recall what it was about or who was in it, not so with Midnight in Paris. It is a sweet, endearing and thought provoking film that will whisk you away into a sublime magical world.
"Do you think it's possible to love two women at the same time?," asks
our protagonist Gil Prender to a tour guide discussed Auguste Rodin's
love for his mistress and his wife. Like that's the first time we've
heard that question in a Woody Allen movie. Infidelity, gorgeous women,
and neuroticism are some of Allen's favorite motifs, so it's really not
too much of a surprise that they all appear in Midnight in Paris.
That said, Allen's rendition of those ideas feels fresh this time. Midnight in Paris is a sweet, fun romp through the art world of France. This light comedy may not have some of the heavier messages about adultery and art that previous Allen films have had, but Midnight in Paris is, nonetheless, an enjoyable exercise in allusion to the Lost Generation and artists of the 1920s.
Midnight in Paris begins with the same idea of a man, in this case a screenwriter named Gil played by Owen Wilson, searching for connection with the real world. The protagonist is clearly a projection of Allen's self, but no matter. Gil is engaged to the Inez, played by a blond Rachel McAdams who coincidentally (or is it?) looks like Scarlet Johansson from Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Inez bores Gil with her pretentious friends and spiteful parents, which ultimately causes Gil to seek inspiration on his own time by drunkenly wandering that streets of Paris. One night, he is invited into a car that takes him back to the 1920s where he meets his favorite writers and artists, something that eventually leads to a breakthrough in his work. A large supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Allison Pill, Adrien Brody, Michael Sheen, and Marion Cotillard.
Allen's conception of Paris is just as romantic as the story itself. The film's physical look matches some of the complexities of the women in that it appears to be almost splashed in gold. It is, after all, the City of Lights. It's a beautiful movie that matches the pretty faces of its starring women.
Allen's screenplay leaps right off the page thanks to his cast, but this too is something that isn't unusual for a Woody Allen film. At his best, Allen picks actors that play their parts with a sense of realism that, when combined with some elements of the fantastic, charm the audience. Just about everyone here manages to do just this, with the exception of Rachel McAdams, who tries her hardest with an underdeveloped character. Marion Cotillard is the best of the cast (as per usual) in her role as Picasso's mistress. She's bursting with sexuality yet she's grounded in her ability to deliver her dialogue with her natural French accent.
Midnight in Paris is fantastique. In comparison to Woody Allen's previous tales of lust and spite, his newest film feels like a dessert rather than a filling entree, yet this is exactly how a good, highbrow summer movie should be. The cast shines just as bright as the lights at the top of the Eiffel Tower and Allen proves himself worthy of his place in society as a master director once again. By no means a classic, Midnight in Paris is a pretty little diversion, one that is grounded in a theatrical gimmick that totally works every time. This, along with The Tree of Life, will be one of a few summer movies that will dazzle visually (without explosions) and somehow manage not to insult the viewer's intelligence.
I loved this movie! It blends film noir with Stardust Memories, The
Purple Rose of Cairo, and a bit of Annie Hall. The scenes of Paris were
enough to make one fall in love. The music was superb! Having all the
artists and writers show up was the ultimate name dropping contest!
Their caricatures were hysterical! Casting Adrien Brody as Salvatore
Dali was mind blowing, along with the surreal discussion about a rhino.
I think Owen Wilson is the best Woody Allen by far. He has a kind of naivete that seems to fit perfectly with who Woody seems to be and the combination of Owen's good looks with Woody's humor is riveting!
Of course the "nostalgia" theme and the -I really want to be somewhere else because it's too boring here- give the story a whole other layer of meaning. For we artists and writers it's one of the things that sparks our creativity, so I loved this discussion and the never ending unraveling the story provokes. While he's entertaining you, getting you to laugh hysterically about it all, you're actually getting the point he's trying to make! There is no one who is so brilliant! Enjoy!
The love between the French and the Americans has always been mixed with an element of dismissal even contempt but the love is real. Woody Allen walks that fine line in truly inspired fashion. "Midnight in Paris" is a delight. This is he first time I actually loved Owen Wilson. He is terrific as Woody's alter ego. Rachel McAdams superb. Her mean American girl is hilarious and frighteningly recognizably, so are Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy as her parents. What a chillingly awful, normal pair. I loved the moment in which Owen Wilson, in a great close up, comes to accept what's happening around him. I accepted it too. Happily. Another stand out moment: the meeting with Salvador Dali, played brilliantly over the top by Adrien Brody. Highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In an interview with L.A. Weekly, Woody Allen said, "The human
predicament is so tragic and so awful that, short of an act of magic,
we're doomed." Given his questionable view of the human condition, one
wonders what the word "magic" means to him. There is little indication
of it in his latest film, Midnight in Paris, a love letter to an
imagined Paris in the 1920s. Set to the music of Sidney Bechet, the
film opens with a 3 1/2 minute montage of Paris by cinematographer
Darius Khondji's that is little more than a travelogue showing the
usual tourist sights rather than the true Paris beyond the Eiffel Tower
and the five-star hotels that Mr. Allen seems so enamored with - street
vendors, bookshops, cheese, bread, wine, and pastry shops, outdoor
cafés on the Left Bank, and quaint streets loaded with charm - the
Paris of the Parisians.
As the film begins, we hear disembodied voices chattering away over the credits. It takes a few minutes to find out that we are listening to an engaged couple, Gil (Owen Wilson), a hack screen writer turned novelist and his shrill fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) talking about plans for their wedding. They are visiting Paris at the behest of their wealthy parents, businessman John (Kurt Fuller), who Allen lets us know right away is a right-wing Tea Partier, and his charmless wife, Helen (Mimi Kennedy), whose interests seem to lie in spending thousands of dollars for antique furniture. Almost immediately we can sense that the engaged couple may not be right for each other.
Inez is always on schedule, making plans and demanding that Gil go along with her every whim. Gil, on the other hand, (at first anyway) is adjustable, willing to go along to get along, not a good beginning for a marriage. As if we did not have enough of insufferably shallow characters, however, (Allen's desultory persona is there in spirit), the director throws in old friends of Inez, Carol (Nina Arianda) and Paul (Michael Sheen), her pedant of a husband, who Inez used to have a relationship with. It is not a mystery why, after a few failed attempts at socialization and sightseeing, Gil insists on being alone to take walks at night to get his so-called creative juices flowing.
The conceit of the film is that Gil, while out walking at midnight, is picked up by an antique cab and enters a time warp, traveling back to Paris as it was in the Twenties, presumably an invigorating and exciting time to be alive when ex-patriot Americans and Europeans interacted with innovative artists, writers, and musicians in a Bohemian atmosphere. With an "Oh gee, Oh gosh, Oh golly" expression on his face, Gil meets and hangs out with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Cole Porter (Yves Heck), Pablo Picasso (Marial Di Fonzo Bo), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) Luis Bunuel (Adrien de Van), all shown together like the director was testing the audience to "Name that Tune". Naturally, they are all so fascinated with the exotic Gil.
What could have been a wondrous and entrancing experience becomes a stupefying cliché in Allen's hands. The 1920 artists are mostly one-dimensional caricatures delivering "clever" dialogue without spontaneity or wit, except for Stoll's lively discussion with Gil, a scene that begins to show promise for the film's direction but is soon dropped. With some exception, most of the characters resemble the cardboard cutouts from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Hemingway, the macho man, talks about his war exploits and challenges Gil to a boxing match, Dali pounds his chest shouting "I am Dali! Dali!, Picasso feuds with his lovers and so forth on into the night. Meanwhile, Gil becomes smitten with Picasso's lover, the entrancing Adrianna (Marian Cotillard) and makes his return every night at midnight in the same vintage car.
Gertrude Stein agrees to read and comment on Gil's novel about a nostalgia shop. What else would she do with her time? The film gives the impression that life in that era was one big party with important artists never doing any work, never feeling lonely and depressed, and never seeking the quiet places, suitable for reflection and serious thinking. Of course, Adrianna isn't satisfied with the glorious Twenties and travels with Gil further back in time to the "Belle Époque" of the 90s. If all of this sounds superficial and dull rather than full of mystery and fun, it's because it is. Allen has nothing meaningful to say about the human condition, witness his philosophy from Match Point that posits that life is all about luck and little else.
His facile message here is that we should appreciate our present circumstances rather than long for something unattainable, (especially if we live in the lap of luxury as do most of Allen's characters). This is a worthy if banal message but it is lost on Gil whose actions on returning to present time negate whatever value the message might have offered. Traveling to a distant time should have a calming effect such as in Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episode from Season 1 called "A Stop at Willoughby" where a train stops in 1888, allowing a harried businessman to experience an illuminated world filled with simplicity and serenity, qualities nowhere to be found in Midnight in Paris, a film about as magical as shopping at Walmart.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While I'm sure some moviegoers did find this film enchanting, I think
the greater majority of critics and viewers who claim it's a
masterpiece are just afraid to admit that a film that name-drops so
many intellectuals is just not very good. For a film whose list of
characters includes some of the greatest minds of the early twentieth
century, "Midnight in Paris" has little to say about the creative
process or inspiration.
Maybe I've just gotten sick of Woody Allen's gimmick. Every film he makes includes the same list of players: the shrill wife / girlfriend, the overbearing other man / father, the nebbishy Allen stand-in (played this time by Owen Wilson, who makes a valiant, stuttering effort but is far too likable and easygoing a screen presence to really come off as neurotic and quirky), the ravishing young girl who finds the nebbish irresistible. And every film he makes includes terrific actors reciting their lines as if they're at the script's first table read.
Possible spoiler territory: Allen starts the film with a five-minute travelogue of nice places to visit in Paris, then introduces us to characters we'd never be able to stomach in real life. They have affairs and spend $18,000 on chairs and attend wine-drinking parties. We meet Gil and his fiancée, whose engagement is a complete mystery, and the fiancée's father, who must be evil because he's Republican. After watching these people amble around Paris for a while, we join Gil as he journeys back in time somehow to meet the artists he claims as personal heroes.
Many episodes of "Doctor Who" deal with time travel better than this film does. I'm not saying this to score a cheap point: The Vincent van Gogh episode from season 5, for example, introduces us to a world-famous artist as a brilliant but troubled thinker who has passion and ideas he struggles to express, and whose work in turn is shown inspiring those in the future.
Not so here. Gil seems to take no inspiration whatsoever from this amazing blessing, responding to his ability to travel through time with what can only be described as nonchalance. He encounters Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Stein, and other writers we all read in college. Here's where I began to find the name-dropping irritating. These are CliffNotes versions of these great thinkers. Hemingway is brash. Zelda Fitzgerald is loony. Gertrude Stein is heavyset. We get it. What does this movie have to say about their work, their influence, their passion? What draws them together and makes their work vital?
Certainly we don't find out by watching Gil. At first, he's kinda happy to show Stein his novel, but then once he meets Marion Cotillard as a Lost Generation groupie, he shifts his ambition to sleeping with Marion Cotillard. I can't blame him, but I have no idea what the movie's statement becomes at this point. Something involving nostalgia, but even Gil admits that it's not a very compelling epiphany. Big spoiler: This amazing time-traveling adventure of self-discovery ends up not with Gil reinvigorated and pursuing his dream, but deciding to hang around in Paris because it's pretty in the rain, and meeting a nice hot young girl who likes Paris because it's pretty in the rain. What I'm trying to say is: Shallow movie.
To its credit, this movie did make me question, at about the 75th verse of "Let's Fall in Love," why Hemingway didn't punch Cole Porter in the jaw.
I love Woody Allen, so already I'm biased. But even I will admit that he's been spotty for the last...my God!...twenty years or so. "Curse Of The Jade Scorpion" will forever be his lowest moment, and in his later phase "Match Point" and "Vickie Christina Barcelona" remain the highlights. Well, we can add another to that list. By no means is this movie an "Annie Hall" or a "Manhattan", let alone a "Husbands and Wives". But if you've been bored by what you've been seeing at the Multiplexes lately, if you think "The Hang-Over 2" sucked and you've despaired that the romantic comedy is dead...than I'm delighted to tell you to go see this movie right now. See it on a big screen! It's gorgeous to look at, fun to watch, romantic, sweet, smart, and pleasantly old-fashioned. This movie is not a masterpiece, and yet I'm giving it 10/10 because it was perfect for what it was -- a modest pleasure that left me in a great mood, and even a little inspired.
Quite a lot of great lines carrying life's wisdom; Profound reflection and insight of living the precious present expressed in a light-hearted touch! If you have your own 'Golden Age' fantasy, you will likely enjoy it. This movie seems to be relatively more straightforward in communicating its message than some of Allen's other works, such as "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger." As a plus, lovely cinematography of the city of Paris - Mr. Allen has apparently fallen in love with the 'good old (and charming)' European major cities; e.g., London, Paris, Barcelona and etc. Very likely, you will leave the movie theater with a big and warm smile on your face...
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