“This is unbelievable, look at this. There’s no other city like this in the world! There never was…Can you picture how drop-dead gorgeous this city is in the rain? Imagine this town in the ’20s –Paris in the ’20s — in the rain, the artists, the writers…” The opening lines to this film basically describe my entire infatuation with this city.
I fell in love with Paris many years ago, before I even had the chance to visit. Taking an English Lit course in university dedicated to the American ex-pats in Paris in the 1920s did nothing but heighten my love for this city. When I found out that Woody Allen had written and directed a new film based on exactly this, I was like a kid on Christmas Eve, waiting for Santa to come down the chimney — I couldn’t wait.
I love Woody Allen. When Midnight in Paris was released, I was in heaven. I remember watching it and thinking “this man GETS me!”. Woody has a knack for featuring the great cities of this world in his films, so to pay homage to this wiry little man I will be highlighting some of his movies throughout the month of December, focussing on the ones that have become my favourites.
First off is the aforementioned Midnight in Paris. Here’s a brief synopsis: a young, engaged, American couple — Gil (played by Owen Wilson), and Inez (played by Rachel McAdams) — travel to Paris with Inez’s parents on business. One night, Gil finds himself transported back in time to Paris in the 1920s –his dream period when writers and artists like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and Dali roamed the streets and danced and drank until all hours of the night. Gil then wakes up the next morning in his hotel room, looking disheveled and entirely out of it. I would too if I had just met my literary idols.
This time travelling then continues throughout the film. During the day, Gil is in modern-day Paris, having to deal with some of the most neurotic, yet typically Woody Allen-esque characters I’ve ever seen on film, including his fiancée (honestly, I can’t stand Inez, or her parents for that matter). Then, as the clock strikes midnight, Gil is once again thrust back into the Roaring Twenties and everything changes, even the light.
The characters of this earlier era are full of life and texture and vivacity (maybe a bit too much vivacity, such is the case with Zelda Fitzgerald — any English Lit student or fan of F. Scott would know what I mean when I say this). Gil even meets and become infatuated with a woman, Adriana — a former muse of Modigliani and the current lover of Picasso.
From scene to scene Gil finds himself standing amongst giants. One moment he’s sitting in a bar with the Surrealists, and then he’ll be with Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. This movie is full of nostalgia and greats from the past. It’s the perfect ode to Paris in one of its most magical eras.
Whether you’re a fan of Woody’s, a lover of Paris, or a reader of Hemingway, I strongly recommend watching this movie. Even if you’ve never read or seen any of the works created by the writers and artists portrayed in this film, this film is so full of magic and intelligence that it would be difficult not to enjoy.