Sunday, 24 February 2013


“When good Americans when they die go to Paris.” - Thomas Gold Appleton

Last weekend we watched the delightful 2011 Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni and Marion Cotillard. Allen both wrote and directed this whimsy and it is a glowing tribute to the great city of Paris, the past, love, art and literature. It won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but also won another 16 awards and was nominated for another 52 distinctions.

The film is a loving tribute to the “Ville Lumière” as only a besotted American can do it (and I mean that as a compliment!). The cinematography is superb, the costumes and music wonderful, the rich ambience of times past and the spirit of place have been captured beautifully. The casting is very well done and one has the feeling of watching a rich cavalcade of the famous artists and thinkers of the 1920s who parade through the plot, the only reason being to be seen…

The story concerns Gil (Wilson) and Inez (McAdams), an American couple who travel to Paris as a tag-along vacation on Inez’s parents business trip. Gil is a rich and famous Hollywood writer but is struggling on his first novel. He falls in love with Paris and suggests to Inez that they should move there after they get married. Inez does not share his romantic notions of the city or the idea that the 1920s was the “golden age”. One night, when Inez goes off dancing with her friends, Gil takes a walk at midnight and discovers that he can slip into a time warp if he is at the right place at the right time and finds himself in his “golden age” of the Paris of the 1920s. Gil is jubilant and finds his recurring trips to the past a great source of inspiration for his writing. While his writing improves, his relationship with Inez becomes tense and strained…

Allen has made a similar film as a paean to a great city, his “Manhattan” of 1979. “Midnight in Paris”, however, is a much more mature and mellow work, where Allen allows his imagination free rein and where his distillation of what it is to live and love is spelt out quite clearly. Gil’s ventures into the past may fulfil him as an artist, but his life has to reach its full potential in his present time, and it is only when he realises this is the essence of his happiness that he is able to make the right decisions.

The film is a light and winsome fable. Light and frothy as a whipped cream dessert, rich with champagne bubbles and frollery (= frisky drollery :-). It is no classic but it doesn’t aspire to be. It is no masterpiece, but it is an enchanting and entertaining bauble that makes a point, no matter how self-evident and platitudinous it may be. The way that Allen serves us this confection appeals to our jaded palate and we sit there enjoying serve after serve. There is subtle humour and some wonderful one-liners, but no belly laughs. This is no slapstick.

We recommend this film, especially more so if you have been to Paris and have succumbed to its manifold charms…

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