Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris is the best movie of the year so far and one of Woody Allen’s greatest films ever.  It is in league with Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters.  The original screenplay should be a lock for an Oscar nomination and I cannot recommend this film any more highly.

Early on, an annoying character makes the observation that a glaring Romantic flaw is Golden Age syndrome.  They always look to the past, usually to a specific decade, and define it as the greatest and most interesting time to be alive.  It is never the present.  For Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris’s nostalgic Woody Allen character, the Golden Age was 1920’s Paris.  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, et al., sat around drinking, smoking, and debating literature, art, and music.  Wilson’s 2010 present involves hack Hollywood screenwriting, suspicious prospective in-laws, and mundane hassle.  Salvador Dali, T.S. Eliot, and Pablo Picasso must never have had to wash the dishes or take out the trash.  However, Golden Age syndrome is in the eye of the beholder.  What if 1920’s Paris was your present?  You would not define it as your Golden Age, but most likely look back to the 1890s and the Belle Époque.  That era must have had greater thinkers such as Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, and Degas.  Those gentlemen were probably yearning for the Renaissance.      
This manner of thinking strikes me as immensely intriguing.  Granted, this film requires a certain amount of knowledge beforehand to enjoy it.  The Ernest Hemingway scenes are easy to digest, but if you are not familiar with Luis Bunuel, you will most likely miss out on the scene which made me laugh the loudest.  At the end, I wanted to pack up, travel to Paris, find a corner café, and order a bottle of red wine to ready myself for an upcoming conversational challenge.  I am happy Woody Allen chose to return to a European setting.  His two most recent entries in that category, Vicki Christina Barcelona and Match Point are superior to his familiar New York sets.  Even You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is better than Whatever Works and Scoop. 
Take the time to find this film and enjoy it.  Afterwards, you will probably run into like-minded folk in used book stores ferreting out A Moveable Feast and the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. 

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