Paris, je t’aime
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different time? A different place? To live amongst your literary heroes, taking their advice, being a part of their history? To dine and dance with iconic artists, musicians, and historical giants? At one point or another, we all have. We all have dreamed of being a part of something we’ve only ever read or heard about; experiencing, first hand, a time not our own. Midnight In Paris is a film that answers these eternal questions, in a way that is strangely believable. It does not romanticize, but beautifies a time – a place – our hero longs to be a part of. It doesn’t present an idealized solution, but offers the audience a direct truth; something they can take with them and utilize in their own reality.
What I love about this film, is that it expresses a desire we all have. It let’s us live vicariously through another, without tragedy or glorified finales, but with a sense of realism. The distinct boundary between fantasy and reality is blurred, which is something we haven’t quite seen before. We can identify with the main character instantly.
Midnight In Paris takes that idea of ultimate escape and twists it into something new. Can you live in the past or will the real world catch up to you?
Written and directed by Woody Allen, this 2011 film introduces us to our principal character, Gil (Owen Wilson), an unfulfilled script writer who just wants to write that one great novel. I know how you feel, buddy. He feels a connection to the City of Light, wishing he could spend his days sitting in the Parisian sunshine, writing, walking the boulevards in the rain. His fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams) . . . Well, let’s just say she doesn’t feel the same. Gil is high-spirited, but has the notion that he doesn’t belong – wanting to be part of a different era; the Golden Age: Paris, 1920’s.
Gil easily gets his wish. One moment he is standing on the darkened streets of present-day Paris, the next, a shiny, new motorcar is taking him to the era of bathtub gin and the Charleston. It takes little effort to believe the transition from one reality to the other. Gil is wide-eyed and bewildered at first, though quickly embracing his new surroundings. He meets one literary hero after another. Ernest Hemingway. F. Scott Fitzgerald. Pablo Picasso. Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody, gotta love him). The list goes on and on. They welcome him. They see him as one of their own.
During his midnight adventures, Gil falls quickly for Adrianna (Marion Cotillard). He finds something in her that he is clearly missing with Inez. Night after night, Gil goes back to her. Though they are from two different worlds, they are similar in certain ways. Both are despondent with their lives, sharing the idea of nostalgia. He longs for a different time, as does she. They want to escape the present, surrounding themselves with the people and places of the past. Here lies the primary obstacle. Will Gil take the opportunity he has been given and stay in the past? Or find happiness in the present?
I will admit, to truly understand the film you will need a bit of literary background. This is one of those movies were being a well-read book-worm comes into play. Midnight In Paris is a dialogue heavy film. Being a “Wordy Lady,” I love this. Character discussions are full of wit, realistic and fast paced. Allen’s dialogue is almost flawless. He takes a risky decision in his filmmaking; the first three minutes of the film voiced as a love letter to Paris. The sights and sounds of the city are photographed with Allen’s signature cinematography style. Rich colors – warm browns and greens – something we’ve come to know from Allen’s previous films. Music also takes a central role, taking on a life of its own at precise moments throughout the film. You want to know the truth? I love the soundtrack. Hard. From orchestral pieces, to Cole Porter, to the best of France’s vintage melodies, it’s a music lover’s dream.
The film is relatable in a way that is unsuspecting. I’m sure none of us have gotten in a car and been transported to 1920’s Paris. If you have, I’d love to hear about it. It’s Gil’s emotional journey that we can sympathize with. His quest to find a place where he belongs, though taken by an unconventional route, is something we all can relate to. In the end, it’s the combination of character, story, and music that create a backdrop for a wonderful film (Plus, Michael Sheen’s in it. How can you not love Michael Sheen?). Midnight In Paris is definitely a must watch movie.
Movie Rating: A
If you liked this, you may also like:
Have you seen Midnight In Paris? What did you think of the film? What was your favorite scene? Favorite character? Favorite line? What is your favorite Woody Allen film? Tell me in the comments!