And here we are again, friends! Time for another review of the Summer Film Challenge 2012: Apocalypse Edition. With the summer rapidly drawing to a close, I am working feverishly to finish every film on the list before the September 5th deadline. And so, I procured the next film from Netflix and sat down to watch Woody Allen’s Best Picture nominated film from last year. Simply put, Midnight in Paris felt tailor made for me and I loved every second of it!
I think it fair to say that this film is the most intelligent, scholarly film I have ever seen. It has to be the cinematic equivalent of Ulysses because I felt that I needed an encyclopedia, film history diagram, art critic’s guide, and immense knowledge of wines just to understand this movie! At every turn there is another subtly nuanced reference to a major work or player in history that I was at best vaguely familiar with. Apparently I forgot my monocle as I sat their enjoying the thousands of artistic inside jokes that passed above my head. A brilliant work of cultural documentation, I know I want to see this film again and again as I age as a test of how well versed I am in the classics.
Most personally, this film hit a rather throbbing nerve I have for that great country of France, and particularly for it’s shining capital city. Though my travels have not yet taken me there, my heart has always belonged to Paris and so the opening sequence of expositional shots around the city, which many would probably consider over-indulgent, was like candy to me. I know I am gushing and that it gives me an unfair bias, but the film had me at the title really, and the subsequent quality I saw in Midnight in Paris simply added to my love of it.
Everything about this film drips classic Woody Allen. The almost painfully long takes in which characters walk in and out of limited space, the slightly heavy use of score to set a tone, and the general apathy and mysticality surrounding the protagonist all reminded me of the great filmmaker behind the project, and I can only say that it was executed beautifully for an hour-and-a-half long film. As usual, there is a lot of the writer/director in his protagonist and that seemingly internal battle for greatness yet again strikes a very true chord with reality.
And speaking of the hero, Owen Wilson proves yet again that he gets what Allen is doing, giving a phenomenal performance. I might even say that this is the best role I have seen him in, simply because it is subtle and under-spoken rather than the extremities he has gone to for Wes Anderson’s caricatured worlds. The supporting cast is also phenomenal from the horrendously upsetting future in-laws of his woefully self-centered wife (Rachel McAdams), to the incredible cast of characters playing the great artists of yesteryear. Standouts include Corey Stoll for his hilarious recreation of Hemingway, Marion Cotillard for her beautiful Adriana, and of course the one and only Adrien Brody for by far the funniest and most true portrayal of the surreal Salvador Dali. Everyone of them mastered the person they were giving life to and created a magnificently true world for our Gil Bender to run around in.
As for the message of the film, I rather like the way Allen manages to connect the roaring 1920’s to our current environment – everything expanding at rapid pace, yet a sort of discontentment or abandon for the present. He somehow reminds me that, while the current climate of our nation may not be the most desirable, it is as Voltaire quips “the best of all possible worlds” for me. The film is full of fantastic quotes which help illustrate that fact such as when Paul explains that “Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.” Beautifully woven in to the narrative, the audience is shown the truth of this statement as we watch both Gil and Adriana seek an escape from their lives to something more exciting elsewhere.
Midnight in Paris is a gorgeous film – intellectually stimulating, cinematically distinct, and poignantly appropriate for the modern age. I am absolutely in love with this latest masterpiece from that great director, Woody Allen, and I can only hope to one day grasp the true genius of his work (and maybe catch all of the references too). If you haven’t already, please find room in your schedules to sit down with a friend or loved one and simply enjoy the exhortation of one of the greatest places in the world. Paris, and Midnight in Paris, je t’aime!
Final Rating: 10//10
Ah. Sacre Bleu! I do like this film. 🙂 Let me know what you thought of Woody Allen’s latest work in the comments below. Also, be sure to check out this rather interesting podcast below. I think two weird French guys took over the job for a day to talk about a bunch of French films…
*Note that Ryan and I recorded this Podcast before doing the Sophie’s Choice one. Sorry for the confusion.
Anyway, we got control of the mic back and I think that will be the last of the Frenchies we will see here. Next, I am turning my attention across the ocean a ways to the world of crime, confusion, and Coen as I review their 1984 thriller, Blood Simple.