Watching ‘Midnight in Paris’, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a bit like walking into a nostalgia shop, except the entirety of Paris is the shop. The film commences with a series of location shots of Paris, setting the tone and the scene for the rest of the film. For those familiar with the city, favourite haunts and landmarks trigger that nostalgic feeling. For those unfamiliar with the city, the montage might get a tad dull, though one would hope that an unfamiliarity of Paris would not preclude seeing this film.
Gil (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. He’s obsessed with 1920s Paris, and one night after getting lost walking back to his hotel, at the very stroke of midnight, he’s picked up by revelers in an old Peugeot. He finds himself somehow transported to 1920s Paris, partying with F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda, meeting Hemingway, Picasso, Gertrude Stein… it’s a veritable name dropping of ‘20s literary society. On his second visit, he is enchanted by a young woman dating Picasso. He falls in love with her, and returns to the 1920s via the car at the stroke of midnight to visit her, and to get Stein’s views on his unpublished novel. As their visit to Paris lengthens, his relationship with his fiancée is souring, and he has to decide what he should do with his life.
The film has an excellent ensemble cast: Kathy Bates as Stein, Marion Cotillard as Gil’s love interest Adriana, Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali, and Gad Elmaleh as the detective, among others. Corey Stoll especially was a delight as the very upfront and opinionated Ernest Hemingway. The film is an English student’s dream: my theatre companion squealed at the sight of T.S. Eliot, and then of Paul Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. I wonder if Woody Allen’s nostalgic Paris is the 1920s?
I know what era of Paris I would like to visit, should a car come for me at midnight… the 1940s-1950s, visiting the cafés and rubbing shoulders with the existentialists. But of course, you knew that, right?