on November 7, 2011
"All men fear death. It's a natural fear that consumes us all," says a character in "Midnight in Paris"... "However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears."
Paris is her name. She has seduced writers for centuries, and in "Midnight in Paris" writer/director Woody Allen makes love to her with his camera, in the most poetic of ways.
Or perhaps he's referring to art, to achieving such intimacy with your craft and such artistic climax that you become immortal, like Hemingway, Matisse, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali, or Allen himself.
Gil Pender, the protagonist in Allen's new film, has never experienced that kind of artistic height. Played quite convincingly by Owen Wilson (in a surprising and refreshing role that Allen had to re-write for him), Gil is an aspiring novelist who is visiting Paris with his girlfriend (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. But while they prefer to shop and visit museums, Gil chooses to wonder about. "No work of art can compare to a city," he says.
Pender is actually mesmerized by the City of Lights and fantasizes about what he believes was Paris' Golden Age, the 1920s with the Lost Generation of American writers walking its streets, writing in sidewalk cafés, and frequenting smoky bars and flamboyant parties. One evening at midnight, trying to find his way back to the hotel, something magical happens to Gil. Really! But no reviewer should give that magic away.
Getting lost in the city seems to be a symbol for how lost he really is, as a person and as a writer, and although he's somewhat insecure and anxious (he even carries a bottle of Valium with him), he's actually a likable guy and soon meets a few bohemian friends (played by Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, among others) who give him much-needed advice about life and the creative process.
From the beginning, "Midnight in Paris" grabs you with its witty and sophisticated dialogue about art, culture and literature, and in the second half the dialogue gets even better. For instance, my favorite line comes from one of the bohemian characters, who believes that: "the job of the artist is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence."
Another piece of wisdom comes from one of the antagonists who criticizes Gil for being infatuated with the past: "Nostalgia is denial...a flaw in the romantic imagination of people who find it difficult to cope with the present." Think about that one while watching the film, for I believe, there lies the moral of this fabulous fable about the past and the present.
At age 75--with more than 40 films under his belt--Allen has created a film that literally glows. Its dazzling cinematography, inventive plot, and Parisian score, combined with the top-notch acting and set-design, makes for an almost-perfect film, one that's not only clever and thought-provoking, but also entertaining and accessible--even to mainstream audiences.
on June 7, 2011
"Midnight in Paris" is one of Woody Allen's enchanting forays into cinematic fantasy. While it isn't quite up to the fantasies Allen made in the 1980s ("Zelig," "The Purple Rose of Cairo"), it merits a solid four-and-a-half stars, and I'm happy to kick in the extra half-star to give it the highest rating.
"Midnight in Paris" is the story of Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter dissatisfied with his career, visiting Paris with his snippy fiancee (Rachel McAdams) and her dreadful parents (Kurt Fuller, Mimi Kennedy). One night, wandering alone through the Rive Gauche, he sees an ancient Peugeot limousine; the passengers stop and invite him in. This is Gil's entry into the Paris of his dreams--the Paris of the Twenties, in which Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill, Tom Hiddleston) and others cavort in a magical city of abundant promise and possibility. There is even more promise and possibility in the person of Adriana (Marion Cotillard), a beautiful fashion designer and artists' groupie with a passion for the Belle Epoque of Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Allen doesn't try to make "Midnight in Paris" anything more than an airy little souffle of a movie. But the film is far more optimistic than any that Allen has made recently, and he sustains its magical mood brilliantly. (He grabs us with the opening few minutes, a wordless mini-travelogue of Paris accompanied by a lovely, slow Dixieland blues.) Owen Wilson brings a joyous, puppy-dog eagerness to the lead role, and the rest of the cast is equally fine; Michael Sheen has some wonderful moments as the sort of pompous pseudo-intellectual Woody has been skewering at least since "Annie Hall." "Midnight in Paris" has a pointed yet painless moral--that it's up to us to create our own Golden Age, right here and now--and envelops its viewers in a lingering, enchanted glow.
on June 5, 2011
Best Woody Allen film in many years. I'm a big fan of Allen, and enjoy all his work, but this movie is a return to his sublime magic with films like Manhattan, Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters. And in fact, may be a bit better, or perhaps just very different but equally captivating. Owen Wilson turns in a great performance, as does the entire cast. I found myself swooning during the film, actually falling in love with it as it unfolded on the screen. Lovely surprise. I'm buying this as soon as it is released. It's a keeper.
on June 12, 2011
"Midnight in Paris" is the best Woody Allen film I've seen in years! I absolutely loved it! It's part-fantasy, part-romance, part-comedy, and part-time travel. And it brought back fond memories of American literature, film studies, and art history classes I had in college.
The star of Allen's film is Owen Wilson, who plays Gil--a Hollywood screenwriter who is engaged to Inez (an awful materialistic blond beauty, played by Rachel McAdams). They are in Paris with her parents (who are as awful and materialistic as Inez). Gil wants to walk in the rain and soak up the romantic atmosphere of the city; Inez wants to shop and hang out in museums, and go dancing and wine-tasting with a couple, with the male an annoying, pedantic fellow. Gil really wants to finish his nostalgic novel and live in Paris, not go back to California and his movie scripts.
Somehow, Gil winds up in the Paris of the 1920s--his "golden age"--with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, Josephine Baker, and others from the period. He even spends some time in the 1890s with Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Wilson is wonderful as our romantic hero, as is Marion Cotillard, who plays Adriana (who has been a mistress of Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani). Also outstanding in other supporting roles are Kathy Bates (as Stein), Michael Sheen (as the pedantic character), Corey Stoll (as Hemingway), and Adrien Brody (as Dalí). And Léa Seydoux is charming as Gabrielle (a love interest).
This is a film that I will be sure to purchase when it comes out as a DVD. It is warm, funny, romantic, clever, and entertaining.
on December 2, 2011
This review may contain minor spoilers...
Woody Allen's 41st film opens with several minutes of exquisite shots of Paris set to Jazz music. Cinematographer Darius Khondji elegantly captures these beautiful sites and effectively sets the tone for the film in which Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter working on his first novel while in Paris with his fiancée Inez. After running into old acquaintances Paul and Carol (Michael Sheen and Nina Arianda), Gil goes on a walk to get away from it all and finds himself transported to the 1920s France, an era that he adores. There, he meets literary and cultural giants such as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Salvador Dalí, among others. He also meets and becomes fascinated with Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Picasso's mistress, whose ideas about time are in synch with Gil's own.
From the first frame, Midnight in Paris is one of Allen's most charming films in years. I've never seen a Woody Allen film I didn't like and there are only a few I wouldn't bother watching again. The general consensus is that his recent films are weak, especially in comparison to his earlier work. I am of the opinion that he's never made a bad film and each new film he made would be held in higher regard if not for the (many) films that had come before it. Whatever your stance is on Allen's films, both past and present, I think you'll agree that this is one of his best films in years. All of the elements; the casting, the setting, the style, and the story come together perfectly to create a magical romantic-comedy/fantasy. Midnight in Paris has many references to classic literature and film that certain audiences may not catch, but this movie is just so likeable that knowledge of the subjects involved is not necessary to enjoy it. It may cause you to seek it out after the film has ended however, but since when is knowledge a bad thing? It's certainly an accessible film, make no mistake about it, but it's also for a certain audience. If you're the casual moviegoer, you'll find little to dislike about it. If you're part of the audience this is intended for, you'll find almost nothing to dislike about it.
The musical score is so brilliant that it couldn't possibly be original. While many parts of the score are recognizably made of classic jazz music and some Cole Porter songs, I figured the main theme was original; alas, there is no original score for the film. The use of music and the music used is brilliant, as well as essential to the effervescent tone of the film. I can't rave enough about Khondji's cinematography as it truly evokes the beauty of Paris and captures it in exactly the idealized way that Gil sees it. The whole film is beautifully shot, from the first frame to the last. The cinematography is a loving testament to the otherworldly beauty of Paris and the beautiful sites that the camera lovingly lingers on makes the film work almost as a visual tour of the city, but don't think for a minute that this is a bad thing. This is a fantasy film and Khondji makes Paris appear as the ultimate fantasy.
As usual, Allen has assembled a wonderful cast lead by Owen Wilson in the Woody Allen role. Wilson shares some of the same mannerisms and speech patterns we'd expect if Allen played the role, but brings a distinct giddiness that only Wilson can convey. Gil is a memorable, extremely likeable protagonist whose wide-eyed wonder reflected my own. Allen never misses a chance to take jabs at pedantic, pseudo-intellectuals and Michael Sheen plays one perfectly, providing some great back-and-forth banter with Gil. Every actor makes an impression with their characters, with Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy being especially funny and well utilized as Inez's judgmental, materialistic parents. The historical figures throughout the film are given wonderful characterizations, with Corey Stoll turning in a vivacious, poetic performance as Hemingway and Kathy Bates making Gertrude Stein exude warmth and intelligence. Adrien Brody has an inspired cameo as the great surrealist Salvador Dalí and his scene was certainly a highlight ("I see...rhinoceros"). With the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni, making an appearance as well, Allen's strong group of actors are one of the driving forces behind the reason this movie works so well.
Midnight in Paris features some of Allen's best writing years. The characters are well-developed of course, but the story is more inspired than usual. The dialogue is clever and witty (one of my favorite examples being Gil suggesting the plot of The Exterminating Angel to director Luis Buñuel). Allen even takes a moment to take some light-hearted jabs at Tea Party politics. The "earrings scene" meanwhile is the most well-executed comedic scene that Allen has filmed in some time. This is Allen's 41st theatrical film since 1972 and while he's admittedly had some hits and misses, he proves that at the age of 75 he's still capable of churning out a genuinely great film. After making a huge per-theatre average on only six screens, Sony slowly expanded Midnight in Paris and it has consistently remained in the top 10 movies at the box office since. This is a huge feat for a Woody Allen film. Audiences have responded because Allen has made a charming, lovely, whimsical fantasy film that shows Allen at his most accessible and most consistent. With 41 films under his belt it's hard to say where Midnight in Paris fares amongst those other releases, but based on sheer likeability and quality I can safely say it's my favorite film of 2011 thus far.
on October 28, 2011
A much welcomed escape. Went to see it at the movies twice and will buy a copy for my DVD library. Romantic, great story, excellent characters and depictions of the late-greats are tops. I'll refrain from fawning over this movie too much as I don't want to spoil it for the others. It's magical. What can I say but go see it and that we need more movies like this. Refreshing break from melting buildings, crumbling sidewalks, 50 car pileups, crude, rude humor and stacks of shot up bad guys. A breath of fresh air.
on December 30, 2011
Woody Allen once said: "If my films don't show a profit, I know I'm doing something right". And boy, is he ever right. Why would he want to settle on being an ordinary filmmaker, incapable of directing a film like this? Shudder to think!
It was this past summer that I visited the theatres to see this film at the urging of a friend. I have enjoyed most of the films he's done in the past 10 years, so I was game. I wasn't even half an hour in before I fell head over heels in love with this film.
First thing to note - the city of Paris is a character all its own. Glittering, beautiful, rich & elegant, Allen's cinematography brings the City of Lights to life. If you've ever been to Paris - or have longed to go like yours truly - watching this movie will make you want to return (or cash in your life savings to make the trek). Woody Allen has always had a long love affair with Paris, and his affection shows up in every shot of the city. Everything is awash with color and light. No washed out tones to be found anywhere.
Paris aside, the film is absolutely magical. Owen Wilson is an actor who has never appealed to me. I have routinely found his comedies lacking humor, substance and style, and he's never been believable to me. I was completely surprised to find him not only charmingly genuine here, but completely loveable and relatable. Rachel McAdams is always fabulous, and this movie is no exception. There are many other wonderful actors showcased, most of them being unknown. Two standouts are Alison Pill (an extreme talent - watch out for her) and Corey Stoll. I won't spoil the story by telling you who they play; that's half the fun. If you're like me, you'll watch it for the first time and squeal with delight with each character's reveal. Let's just say you might want to brush up on your literature and art history prior to watching the film. I must say that immediately after leaving the theatre, I was ready to book my Air France ticket. Then I was brought back to reality when my finances came up and bit me in the nose.
Well, I could go on and on, but I will spare you. Just do yourself a favor and watch this movie. If you're ok with suspending belief to enjoy a magical two hours, you will love it. If not, then you might as well numb your brain on another insipid, uncreative Hollywood big-box release.
on November 21, 2011
This is the best movie I've seen in years! Finally an entertaining movie with intelligence, humor, lovely scenes of Paris, great music - and a message. No crashing cars, burning buildings, or blatant and meaningless sex. A marvelous and intriguing story line....And one could actually hear the dialogue in the absence of background noise so increasingly annoying lately. I saw it in a theater and recommend that if it's still out near you but I will also have to own this one. Woody Allen....a master.
on November 13, 2011
Midnight in Paris is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen in a long time. Masterly crafted by director Woody Allen, it is a well paced film, full of beautifully shot and magically captured moments of Paris. A film of romance and love, Midnight in Paris also uses the science fiction device of time travel to create a very fun and compelling story. The ensemble cast is wonderful and entertaining. This could easily be considered one of Woody Allen's best films.
on December 30, 2011
After an artistic and commercial surge that lasted from 1969's 'Take the Money And Run' through 1987's 'Radio Days,' Woody Allen's creative powers began to noticeably flag in the late 1980s. His comic films seemed repetitive and were no longer very funny, his dramas were murky and superficial, his productions began to look shabby (1993's thread-worn 'Manhattan Murder Mystery' being a good example) and, where Allen once commanded the finest acting talent the industry had to offer, his films began to be populated with second- and third-tier performers.
The Mia Farrow/Soon-Yi Previn scandal, which broke in the early 1990s, further alienated the general public, and, with the commercial failure of his projects, Allen began having trouble finding financing for his films.
Still, when Allen, who had rarely made a film outside of New York City, decamped to London to make 2005's critically and commercially successful crime drama 'Match Point,' New Yorkers were aghast, since they appeared to be losing their city's greatest ambassador. But Allen went on to celebrate the city of London in the mediocre 'Scoop' (2006) and both the underrated drama 'Cassandra's Dream' and the equally underrated comedic 'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger' (2007 and 2010, respectively).
In between, Allen stopped over in Barcelona to film the internationally acclaimed comedy 'Vicki Cristina Barcelona,' a film which, as 'Match Point' had done for London, did for the Spanish city what Allen had done for New York City decades ago in 1979's 'Manhattan,' still one of the jewels in the crown of his career.
How wonderful for Allen, and for movie-lovers everywhere, that Allen, at present in his 70s, has now done the same thing for the French capitol with 2011's 'Midnight in Paris,' which, among things, is the first authentically warm film Allen has ever made.
There have been moments of human warmth in earlier Allen films (the poignant conclusion of 'Manhattan,' some of the scenes between Cecilia and Tom Baxter in 1985's 'The Purple Rose of Cairo,' or those between Eliot and Lee, or Mickey and Holly in 1986's 'Hannah & Her Sisters'), but 'human warmth,' as such, has never been very high on the list of subjects Allen has chosen to explore, despite his obvious romanticism.
The literally magical 'Midnight in Paris' has a very simple plot, a fact which works in the film's favor throughout: Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a successful Hollywood screenwriter who would actually prefer to be a successful novelist of literary merit, is visiting Paris with his beautiful but shrewish fiancé, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her wealthy, conservative, and materialistic parents. Enchanted by his knowledge of Parisian history and the Parisian streets themselves, Gil makes excuses and breaks away from Inez and her entourage.
Unable to find his hotel as midnight approaches, the slightly drunken Gil is picked up by a mysterious vintage automobile of boisterous bon vivants; before long, he finds himself drinking, dancing and conversing with F. Scott and Zleda Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll, who steals the film with a dynamic and subtle performance), Gertrude Stein (a not very believable Kathy Bates), Djuna Barnes, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali (a hilarious Adrien Brody), and other literary and artistic legends in the distant Paris of the 1920s, a 'dream period' in which Gil imagines life would have been full of meaning, beauty, purpose, and endless, but realizable, potential.
Finding himself cast adrift in the present again the following morning, Gil attempts to recreate and share his secret with Inez on the next evening, but vulgar and petulant Inez, bored with waiting, leaves before midnight, the magic hour in which the car appears to escort Gil into the past. In his nightly revels in 1920s Paris, Gil eventually falls in love with Picasso's mistress, Adrianna (a gently stunning Marion Cotillard), a woman who is as lovely in spirit as she is in person. Much to his surprise, however, Gil finds that Adrianna cares little for her own era and instead romanticizes turn of the century Paris---the Belle Époque.
Unable to explain his preoccupied mental state or his midnight wanderings to Inez or her family, Gil, who thinks Paris looks best in the rain, takes again to the daylight Parisian streets, where he encounters young antiques dealer Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) and strikes up a promising acquaintanceship, though Adrianna and the 1920s continue to haunt and lure him on.
Stunningly photographed by Darius Khondji, 'Midnight in Paris' not only ends warmly and happily, but the film is full of life, dimension, and figurative color to a degree never attempted in an Allen film.
Though Inez and her family, as types, have appeared recently in other Allen films, they are in no way the focus of the film: they are present merely to show what Gil has to fully realize and reject before he can move on with his life in a truly satisfactory manner. The script makes some rather lowly and cumbersome digs at the Republican party and the Tea Party movement, but the remarks, which flow from Gil's mouth, feel so tacked on and superfluous that they are easy to overlook.
Warm in tone and color, beautiful to look at, wonderfully written and acted (Owen Wilson is by far the best 'Woody Allen stand-in' since John Cusack), and powerfully scored and edited, 'Midnight in Paris' stands alongside 'Love & Death' (1975), 'Annie Hall' (1977), 'Interiors' (1978), 'Manhattan,' 'Stardust Memories' (1980), the underrated 'A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy' (1982), 'Broadway Danny Rose' (1984), 'The Purple Rose of Cairo,' 'Hannah & Her Sisters,' 'Bullets Over Broadway' (1994), 'Match Point,' and 'Vicki Cristina Barcelona' as one of Allen's most creatively successful, joyous, and visionary films.
More than midway through the film, Allen has Gertrude Stein telling Gil that the artist's job is to provide meaning in a meaningless world, something 'Midnight In Paris' itself does in poignant and touching fashion.