Friday, June 17, 2011

Woody Allen’s Magical Romp Through Paris…and Time

Three and a half stars

Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight In Paris”, is a magical romp through Paris. What I didn’t expect was that it would also be a film about time travel. Woody Allen, I suppose, could have been an English professor. When I was in college, I was an English major, and I have heard of all the people that are referenced and played in this movie through my American and English literature classes. This film isn't about just time travel, but about a man's desire to fulfil a dream.

The film opens on screenwriter, Gil (Owen Wilson), and his girlfriend, Inez (Rachel McAdams). They are in Paris with her parents. Gil is an old time romantic when it comes to Paris and literature. He wants to go to Paris so he can give writing a novel a shot. His girlfriend and her parents would rather go shopping, and go dancing. They meet up with another couple who want to do the same. Gil just wants to walk through Paris, and be inspired by it.

One night, when he is sitting on the steps of a church, an old car pulls up and invites him in. He rides in the car, and arrives at a party where he is introduced to two people who he kind of recognizes. They end up being F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife. They go to a café. Hemmingway is sitting there. Gil is shocked. The film keeps going back and forth between Gil’s modern life and Gil’s time travel adventure. He keeps going back to the same spot night after night, and he keeps getting into the car. One night he ends up at Gertrude Stein’s house. They all speak the way I would imagine them speaking,intellectually. Gertrude Stein will read his novel, after she is done arguing over culture with a friend of hers. Stein is played by Kathy Bates. Ah, to go back to that old time culture where high class people sat around at parties talking intellectually and listening to Cole Porter. But then I digress.

One of the wonderful things about Woody Allen, is that he doesn’t really care if you know who these people are, but if you where a English major or a person of a certain age, you really should know who these people are. When Gil comes back and tells Inez of his time with Hemmingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, T.S. Elliot, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein and other important people of the bygone era, she thinks he is nuts and has a brain tumor. Owen Wilson is obviously playing the Woody Allen part, and he makes a charming Woody Allen.

Gil, like Woody Allen, is in love with the city. The film opens with a montage of Paris. No one shoots a city like Woody Allen. This is a film that people who are well read will get a kick out of. Not to say that someone who never heard of these authors and writers will not enjoy the film. They will. Woody is tipping his hat to a bygone literary era. These are writers Woody Allen probably admires as well. I wonder if this film, if made years from now, would have people traveling back in time to meet up with J.K. Rowling and Stephen King? Only time will tell.

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