25 July, 2011

25 July - Midnight in Paris

I just saw the new Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris. It is absolutely enchanting.

New York Times film critic Joseph Berger describes that “many a writer or artist has longed to travel back in time to the sizzling Paris of the 1920s, to sip absinthe with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots or dine on choucroute garnie with Picasso at La Rotonde.” The main character in the movie, Gil (brilliantly played by Owen Wilson), does just that. Gil parties with Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, has his unpublished novel critiqued by Gertude Stein, confesses the absurdity of his situation with Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, and Salvador Dalí, (who are utterly unfazed by a troubled time traveling novelist), and gets love advice from Ernest Hemingway (love, sex, death, and manliness).

Without a thorough knowledge of the cultural explosion and characters of 1920's Paris some of the incredible dialog and intimate jokes may go unnoticed, but for anyone who loves the literature, art, and legacy of that era this film truly cannot be missed. In the words of Filmtwitch critic Jim Tudor, the “abrupt humanization of these icons of the art and literature is as amusing to Gil as it is to us. The electricity of the time is felt as he makes not just priceless connections and contacts, but friendships. The magic and charm of 1920s Paris is right out in front of everything...”

The film failed for me on one critical level. The moral of the story is that the present is as vital and splendid as the past. Allen attempts to teach us that the lens of nostalgia paints a far more enchanting image of an era than it truly is in its own time. The film is so sumptuous, superbly filmed, and the icons of the past are so vibrant and seductive that I am convinced without a doubt that I would rather be in Paris in 1920 than in Santa Fe in 2011. Sorry, Woody - I'm just not buying it.

images: Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), a moment in the film, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald (Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston)