Midnight in Paris - Woody's latest

Mister Tee
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Postby Mister Tee » Wed May 11, 2011 10:22 am

Apparently this is a consensus take, among French critics (surprise) and those at Cannes. Woody has established a pattern: one critically-liked film per new country of filming.

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Sonic Youth
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Postby Sonic Youth » Wed May 11, 2011 10:17 am

Woody Allen's newest film, opening the 2011 Cannes Film Festival today. Todd McCarthy and Screendaily both enjoyed it very much (for a change).

Spoilers hidden. The Screendaily review in particular is ridiculously spoilerish.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris: Cannes Review
by Todd McCarthy
Hollywood Reporter

As beguiling as a stroll around Paris on a warm spring evening — something which Owen Wilson’s character here becomes very fond of himself — Midnight in Paris represents Woody Allen’s companion piece to his The Purple Rose of Cairo, a fanciful time machine that allows him to indulge playfully in the artistic Paris of his, and many other people’s, dreams. A sure-fire source of gentle amusement to Allen’s core audience but unlikely to connect with those with no knowledge of or feel for the Paris of the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Picasso, this love letter to the City of Light looks to do better-than-average business for the writer-director in the U.S. upon its May 20 release, and expectations in certain foreign territories could be even higher.

As has happened before when Allen has filmed in photogenic foreign locales — London in Match Point, Barcelona in Vicki Cristina Barcelona — the director seems stimulated by discovering the possibilities of a new environment. In fact, Allen has worked in Paris before, as a writer and actor in What’s New Pussycat? 46 years ago and in one section of Everyone Says I Love You, but this is the first time he’s given the city the royal treatment.

Granted, it’s mostly a touristic view of the city, as witness the voluptuously photographed opening montage of famous sites, but that’s entirely acceptable given that the leading characters are well-off Americans on vacation. Playing Allen’s alter ego this time around is Owen Wilson as Gil, a highly successful hack Hollywood screenwriter still young enough to feel pangs over not having seriously tested himself as a novelist.

[color=white]That things may not be entirely right between Gil and his pushy fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) becomes clear early on, as the couple tours around with Inez’s friends Carol (Nina Arianda) and Paul (Michael Sheen), the latter an insufferable expert on all things cultural (that Inez’s parents are right-wingers also allows Allen to sneak in some Tea Party jokes). “Nostalgia is denial,” Paul intones to Gil, who is keen to break off on his own to indulge his own reveries of the literary Paris that fuels his creative imagination.

Lo and behold, that night, while wandering through a quiet part of the city, Gil is invited into an elegant old car carrying some inebriated revelers. Arriving at an even more elegant party, Gil shortly finds that he’s in the company of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and that it’s Cole Porter playing the piano. Later, they end up at a bar with Ernest Hemingway, who promises to show Gil’s unfinished novel to Gertrude Stein.

And so begins a flight of fancy that allows Gil to circulate with, and receive a measure of approval from, his lifelong literary heroes, not to mention such other giants as Dali (a vastly amusing Adrien Brody), Picasso, Man Ray, T.S. Eliot and Luis Bunuel, to whom the young American gives the premise of “The Exterminating Angel.” If not more important, he also meets the beauteous Adriana (Marion Cotillard), the former lover of Braque and Modilgiani who’s now involved with Picasso, will shortly go off with Hemingway but is also curiously receptive to Gil, who seems somehow different than everyone else.

After trying but failing to bring the balky Inez along through the midnight portal along with him, Gil keeps returning to the 1920s night after night, getting pertinent advice from Stein about his novel and becoming seriously distracted by Adriana, who herself would prefer to have lived during La Belle Epoque.

Although it’s all done glibly in traditional Allen one-liner style, the format nonetheless allows the writer, who has never been shy about honoring his idols in his work, to reflect on the way people have always idealized earlier periods and cultural moments, as if they were automatically superior to whatever exists at the time. “Surely you don’t think the ‘20s is a Golden Age?,” Adriana asks a bewildered Gil, who has always been so certain of it. “It’s the present. It’s dull,” she insists.

For anyone whose historical and cultural fantasies run anywhere near those that Allen toys with here, Midnight in Paris will be a pretty constant delight. As Allen surrogates go, Wilson is a pretty good one, being so different from the author physically and vocally that there’s little possibility of the annoying traces of imitation that have sometimes afflicted other actors in such roles. Cotillard is the perfect object of Gil’s romantic and creative dreams; Kathy Bates, speaking English, French and Spanish, makes Stein into a wonderfully appealing straight-shooter, Sheen has fun with his fatuous walking encyclopedia role and McAdams is a bundle of argumentative energy in a role one is meant to find a bit off-putting. French first lady Carla Bruni is perfectly acceptable in her three scenes as a tour guide at the Rodin Museum, while Corey Stoll very nicely pulls off the trick of both sending up Hemingway’s manly pretentions and honestly conveying his core artistic values.

Darius Khondji’s cinematography evokes to the hilt the gorgeously inviting Paris of so many people’s imaginations (while conveniently ignoring the rest), and the film has the concision and snappy pace of Allen’s best work.


Midnight In Paris
11 May, 2011 | By Mark Adams, chief film critic

Dir/scr: Woody Allen. US-Spain. 2011. 94mins

Woody Allen’s lush and charming Midnight It Paris is an amusing and elegantly constructed love letter to Paris, rich on romance, humour and culture and driven by a nicely pitched performance by Owen Wilson as a would-be writer in-love with the city and its cultural past.

Its breezy and accessible structure, easy laughs and strong mainstream cast should help the film secure strong box office and generally positive reviews, and it looks likely it will be one of Woody Allen’s stronger performers. On a certain level it is a familiar Allen concoction of smart urbane laughs that lacks real intellectual depth, but Midnight In Paris delivers easy warmth and is a sweetly engaging Cannes opening night film.

Woody Allen has gone on record stating that he considers Paris as the equal to New York as the greatest city of the world (despite flirting with London and Barcelona in recent films) and certainly the opening scenes of Midnight In Paris are reminiscent to Allen’s 1978 classic Manhattan with its lush montage of shots of Paris in sunshine and rain set against a jazz classic.

Hollywood screenwriter Gil (Wilson) is on holiday in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her wealthy parents (Kurt Fuller and Mimi Kennedy), who are grudgingly in the city for her father to seal a business deal. They make no bones in their dismissal of Gil, who is fretting about the novel he is writing and absorbed with Paris’s cultural past.

Inez is less enthused about Paris - especially when Gil talks about giving up his screenwriting and moving there to finish his novel - but is cheered up when they bump into they bump into intellectual Paul (Michael Sheen) and his wife Carol (Nina Arianda), much to Gil’s annoyance.

Gil sees the pompous Paul as an annoying stuffed-shirt, and starts doing all he can to avoid spending time with them all. After an evening’s wine-tasting (Paul is also apparently an expert on French wine) Gil leaves them when they all go dancing and wanders slightly drunkenly around Paris.

As the clock strikes midnight a vintage car drives up to Gil and the drunken occupants pull him into the vehicle and take him off to party. To his bemusement Gil finds that he has gently drawn back in time and finds himself chatting to Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill), listening to Cole Porter play piano and chatting to Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll).

From then on Gil uses the excuse of late night Parisian walks to re-enter this wonderful world populated with his favourite literary and cultural figures. Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) offers to read his manuscript, and while at her flat he meets the beautiful Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who has been the lover and muse to a series of artists (including Picasso, Modigliani and Braque).

In another amusingly charming interlude - after he and Adriana have wondered the city - he has a drink with Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody in a cameo), filmmaker Luis Bunuel and photographer Man Ray.

Gil finally plucks up courage to declare his love to Adriana though to his - and her - surprise they are approached by a horse-drawn landau and find themselves in Paris of the Belle Epoque (Adriana’s dream cultural era) and mingling with Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin and Degas.

Woody Allen’s film is very much about romantic attachments to different era - and how the past always seems much more exciting than the moment one lives in - which allows for plenty of amusing and smartly written scenes. It does also get a little wearing as Gil bumps into one famous figure after another.

But Woody Allen has a smart wit, and keeps things nicely paced and amusing and in Owen Wilson has found someone at ease with his flowing dialogue, even delivering the usual Allen lines about fear of death with genial ease.

Marion Cotillard looks terrific in her 1920s dresses, though is actually given little to do apart from act the romantic muse to the mildly neurotic Gil, while the ever-excellent Rachel McAdams (who starred alongside Wilson in The Wedding Crashers) gets some of the best lines and adds a contemporary sex-appeal.

Michael Sheen nails the intellectual pedant role with ease - he is an easy mixture of smarm and charm - and has a nice scene where he argues with a tour guide (France’s first lady Carla Bruni) at the Rodin Museum about Rodin’s wife, while also impressive (and building his reputation nicely) is Tom Hiddleston as Scott Fitzgerald.

To a certain degree the film is the perfect Woody Allen rom-com concoction (and in truth would have worked just as easily as a concept in New York) while the strong cast and lovely locations could well help it appeal to audiences who might not be Woody regulars.[/color]
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