Many of cinema’s greatest love stories take place in Paris.
This is not one of them.
Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, is yet another quirky entry into the iconic director’s catalog. While this might not do for Paris what Manhattan did for New York City, it certainly is a journey of its own.
Allen takes us on a magical journey of both Paris and history. He pulls every string inside us nostalgic folk who think we’d be better off in a better era, forcing us to ask ourselves if that’s really true or a false belief as we try to escape our boring, dismal present.
The film’s opening shots moves and tugs at the romantic inside me. It makes me want to do nothing more than get up and leave America for a few weeks. Now I’m not the kind of instantly believe life is better elsewhere – I simply believe it’s healthy to travel, explore and live in new places during your very short life. Paris would be at the top of my list and I can only blame Richard Linklater’s deadly duo of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset for that.
In Midnight in Paris, Allen directs a very nice cast of international actors, with Owen Wilson assuming the lead role of Gil Penders, an American writer who wants to ditch screenplays and become a respectable novelist. Gil is also obsessed with nostalgia and history, but from a spiritual point of view. Engaged to Inez (played by the lovely Rachel McAdams), he finds himself lost in Paris’ mystique. Literally. Each night at midnight, Gil finds himself transported to times he considers the golden age to live it out with icons such as Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds and Pablo Picasso.
Gil’s biggest obsession is Adriana, played by cinema’s most beautiful actress, Marion Cotillard. Adrianna’s allure, coupled with her 1920’s existence, drags Gil further into her and farther away from Inez. The love is there, but this isn’t our greatest love story. Gil is forced to question whether he is better suited to the present or past.
There’s a certain magic to Midnight in Paris that can’t be explained. If you’re like me you’ll instantly identify with Gil. He’s in love with a city, a time period and a feeling. He’s a nostalgic by nature. Every time a new figurehead appears – Luis Buñuel, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali – a smile beams across your face with the same amazement Gil has.
But the pressing concept presented by Allen is whether or not we truly are living in the golden age or if the past could really be better. For the longest time I’ve wished I grew up in the 1960’s or 1970’s. The music is better, the film is better and the people seem different. I feel like I’d fit in better. But is that really true? I think Gil is one of cinema’s most relatable characters of the year. Perhaps not everyone can fully relate to Gil, but I would imagine most have idealized another place or time at one point or another.
This might not be Allen’s best film ever, but it’s certainly one of his best in the last 10 years or so. It’s mysterious, magical and inspiring. Allen makes Paris his film’s star just as much as he does Owen Wilson or Marion Cotillard. You’ll fall in love with Paris’ magic.