Devil’s DVD Advocacy: Midnight in Paris


The very first Director Spotlight we did on this website was Woody Allen, starting with Annie Hall and ending with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Annie Hall got me on a path of reverence for the neurotic comic genius that is Allen. Since Annie Hall, my first real introduction to his work, I have watched a number of his films, each with a different lens, each with a different outcome. Now, today, I have the pleasure of discussing his latest comic opus, Midnight in Paris.

There are three themes that Allen absolutely loves to play with. The concept of a muse, infidelity, and the absurdity of the pseudo-intellectual (present company included). Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, all explore these topics and what path each can take a person down. And many times each impacts the other as the pseudo-intellect seeks their muse, only to have the muse become the object that they lust after, leading to adulterous behaviors. Midnight in Paris explores these same themes, but adds a twist: the muse and the two timer’s object of lust are in fact a city. Any guesses which one?

Midnight in Paris is the story of Gil and Inez, but not really. In fact it’s about Gil and his love of Paris and all of the things that inspire him about and around the city. In need of a muse, Gil looks to the wonders of the city, only to find that after midnight, each night, the city becomes home to writers and artists of the past. Meeting F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso, being surrounded by artisans that are as tortured and unsure as he is, Gil is able to progress creatively. Things get dicey as the people from Gil’s present begin questioning his whereabouts and are none to satisfied with the answers they get.

Owen Wilson plays Gil, who is the Woody Allen analog of the story (think Alvy from Annie Hall). Wilson does an excellent job displaying the neurotic and manic energy that Allen typically brought to his roles. Rachel McAdams plays Inez with a great deal of aptitude, though her character is more of a catalyst for change in Gil’s life, while Marion Cotillard’s Adriana is the stand out character in Gil’s story. Cotillard is a sultry siren of a muse, both as Adriana and herself. The enticing nature in which she plays her role, makes her one of the truly distinct aspects of the film. There really isn’t a bad performance at all in the movie, though Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy are terribly unlikable as Inez’s parents, which is a testament to their capabilities as actors.

I know I get most inspired when dancing with a beautiful French woman.

The story is not an amazing, undiscovered treasure trove, but the manner in which it unfurls is where the true joy lies. The more and more involved Gil becomes in the 1920’s night life, the more the audience gets an appreciation for what inspires people and why they choose to create art in the first place. I have repeatedly heard critics say that this is Allen’s love letter to Paris, but really it’s his love letter to anyone that explores their creative side and is open about what inspires them. Gil tries to share what inspires him with critics, cynics, and pseudo-intellectuals to no avail, but once he meets people of like mind, his creative blockage ceases to exist. The film is a love letter, but also a warning that one should surround themselves with like-minded people if their desire is to create.

Allen can be hit or miss, hot or cold, and just pure genius. Midnight… tells a story worth seeing and hearing in a way people can appreciate. It’s funny and prosaic, and it has real heart, unlike many of the comedies that are marketed as such. This is a must see for current, and especially, lapsed Woody Allen fans. While the bloated blockbusters rage in and out of theaters this summer, Midnight…has a timeless feel, that most can and will appreciate. Easily my favorite of 2011, thus far, and will no doubt remain in my top five for the year.

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About Pamp

Pamp is a lover of great scotch, good films, and bad fiction. When not playing video games or reading comics, he occasionally helps teens figure out "things and stuff". On a good day he does all three at once.

Posted on December 19, 2011, in Devil's DVD Advocacy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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