With it’s heartening message, few films can match Midnight in Paris in its honest support for the romantic. The film opens with a plethora of scenes from street cafes to a snapshot of Montmarté to Parisian nightlife teeming with a unique mix of mellow and vivaciousness. The awkward charm of Owen Wilson and the enthralling Marion Cotillard breathed life into Woody Allen’s vision. This is probably Allen’s best work; Midnight in Paris is piece of art sensitive to the nuances of time and culture and finally what it means to find love where love is true. For those who find the literary references and musings cheesy, it’s probably just bad whine. I can assure you that there’s probably no movie out there like this; Midnight in Paris is resounding in it’s ideas amidst the charm and humour it evokes.
“I sometimes think, how is anyone gonna ever come up with a book, or a painting, or a symphony, or a sculpture that can compete with a great city. You can’t. Because you look around and every street, every boulevard, is its own special art form…” exclaims Gil on one of his midnight escapades with Adriana. Midnight in Paris centres around Gil and his dissatisfaction with leading a mundane American lifestyle. He wishes to move to Paris and pursue other passions, hoping to break free from the stale conventionalities of his present situation. His wife Inez treats Paris as more of a vacation spot rather than a potential home. Being quite the polar opposite, Gil and Inez soon drift apart from each other in terms of their needs and wants, with Gil drifting further into the magical world of the midnight. A strange antique vehicle picks him up from the front of a cathedral at the stroke of twelve. And viola! He meets Hemingway. Yes, Ernest Hemingway. And Pablo Picasso. And Salvador Dali… It’s as if Gil has stumbled upon his literary wonderland.
In following Gil’s character closely, we see that Gil faces an existential crisis. He’s like a hopeless romantic lamenting that he should have been born in the golden era of the 1920s. Owen Wilson does well to portray the idealist wandering in search of meaning. He’ll embark on journeys through time that bring him newfound perspectives, albeit not the ones the he is prepared for. Owen Wilson is charming, akward, innocent and funny, and brings a certain quality of spontaneity to his performance. In essence, his character seeks a life of where beauty and happiness is spontaneous and organic instead of manufactured and conventional notions of contentment. Gil is the unconventional hero of our generation.
Midnight in Paris is a gorgeous film. The romantic milieu of Paris is very much a central element of the story. It’s seductiveness sprawls into every corner of every scene, drawing us in as much as it draws Gil. I might be exaggerating here but it’s really visually beautiful. Cinematographer Darius Khondji has done a magnificent job in making it an authentic aesthetic experience. Woody Allen’s award-winning screenplay is even better, making use of a wonderful backdrop to tell a wonderful story. I can’t exactly point out what I love about this movie. Maybe it’s because Allen’s tale resonates so well with idealists like me, giving hope that our dreams are there for the taking. Maybe it’s tells us to live our lives finding beauty in the spontaneous. Or perhaps it’s the fact that no matter what generation you live in, we can, like Gil, find true beauty and happiness.
It’s a wonderful cornucopia of little moments and subtle emotional shifts that is ultimately, one complete satisfying experience. It almost tips over to the side of being preposterous but finds balance with very real characters struggling with happiness and existence. It might just be one of the best movies ever. It’s certainly one of my favourites.