Not his best, but not his worst by any means, Woody Allen’s new film Midnight in Paris, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival has been ubiquitously termed as his personal ‘love letter’ to the city of lights. This is apparent in the opening shots of the film, that serve as postcard-esque images of the enchanting city. You could just imagine one of these shots being flipped over to reveal the phrase, “Wish you were here, mon amour.” Ranging from day to night, and shine to rain pour, these images serve to capture every beautiful corner of the city, and contribute to one of the films motifs, rain on the streets on Paris.
Paris in the rain, as Owen Wilson’s character Gil Pender firmly believed, is the epitome of beauty. However, his soon to be wife Inez and her parents do not seem to have the same romantic outlook on the city. Luckily, this motif comes full circle at the end of the film, resulting in Wilson meeting a young Parisian whom has the same perspective on her home town. This denouement is rather predictable, but not unsatisfying. I always enjoy leaving the theatre feeling as though this beautiful magic created on the silver screen can transfer into real life, which is probably another angle Allen was aiming for.
Allen really hit his stride when Wilson’s character traveled back to the idealized 1920’s in Paris, where he was fortunate enough to converse with Scott Fitzgerald, his wife Zelda, Hemingway, Dali and Picasso. This is true fantasy that reflects everyone’s notion that the past is always better than the present merely because it has become idealized as such. Allen does a stellar job of portraying this reality, as every time Gil Pender is in the present with Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, you pray for midnight to come so he can escape. The characters that reside in the present are utterly unbearable, which is not their fault as Allen centres his narrative on Wilson and uses the others as pawns for witty banter and to magnify Wilson’s romantic visions. The only character in the present that gave a performance I did not want to throw a rock at was Michael Sheen’s ‘know-it-all’ persona. As Inez (Rachel McAdams) continually said to Gil, who would try to interject Sheen’s frequent educational lessons with his own information, to stop being rude in order to listen a learn, I wanted to scream at her and tell her to cease her incessant need to interrupt Gil! Oh goodness, how I loathed her character. No wonder the past is perceived as better than his present!
Critic Roger Ebert had this to say about the film,
“This is Woody Allen’s 41st film. He writes his films himself, and directs them with wit and grace. I consider him a treasure of the cinema. Some people take him for granted, although “Midnight in Paris” reportedly charmed even the jaded veterans of the Cannes press screenings. There is nothing to dislike about it. Either you connect with it or not. I’m wearying of movies that are for “everybody” — which means, nobody in particular. “Midnight in Paris” is for me, in particular, and that’s just fine with moi.”
I could not agree more. Though I would not have given the film a 3 1/2 star out of 4 rating the way he did because I feel Allen’s films should not be judged on a star system. He truly is a treasure of the cinema who has ventured into almost every genre and is influenced by absolutely everything. Thus his films should not be rated, solely enjoyed. This love letter is definitely one that will not be forgotten.