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Thursday, 09 June 2011 23:00

The Magical Hour Is "Midnight in Paris"

thederniercri.net thederniercri.net
Written by Diane Carson
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Writer/director Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is a light, playful, enjoyable bonbon. In this cinematic love letter to Paris, Allen also pays tribute to literary artists and painters of 1920s Parisian life through Gil, a contemporary, discontented Hollywood scriptwriter.

Visiting the lovely "City of Lights" with his fiancé Inez and her parents, Gil and Inez's interaction immediately makes clear that he and she are yin and yang, especially when it comes to nostalgia for the 1920s that Gil adores. And so Gil meanders alone through the Parisian streets, chimes announce the midnight hour, a roadster pulls up and someone says, "Get in." This automobile takes Gil to magical encounters night after night with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Picasso, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein, and a who's who of famous painters—Picasso, Dali, Degas. Each writer talks as he wrote, with Corey Stoll's Hemingway particularly funny and Kathy Bates' Gertrude Stein perfection. Rachel McAdams plays an appealing Inez.

Midnight in Paris opened the Cannes Festival, where I first saw it. At the film's press conference Allen said he wanted to show Paris with the affection he feels for it, to show it subjectively rather than realistically. He succeeds admirably in this. In fact, the production got lucky because for the opening montage of Parisian sites, it rained for several days, and Allen finds Paris especially beautiful in the rain, as it is in the film. Allen also said that "I cast wonderful actors, don't interfere with them, and then when they're great, I take the credit."

A mood of nostalgia pervades, and the more the viewer knows about this time and the famous figures, the more enjoyable the fantasy. Ironically, Adriana, an ex-Picasso mistress played beautifully by Marion Cotillard, expresses her longing for the Belle Époque. Yes, nostalgia afflicts all generations, and Allen teases out its appeal with gentle enthusiasm. It applies to all the scenes with Inez's friend Paul whom she runs into and then spends time with. He, a maddening expert on everything, makes sure everyone appreciates his vast knowledge. Michael Sheen shines again.

Above all, Midnight in Paris is melodious, alternately contemporary and 20s rhythms with the latter so much more appealing. Allen said he could write about these historical figures in an amusing way because he wasn't trying to make them profound characters. So while there are some flabby scenes and even with Owen Wilson a two-dimensional, slack-jawed Woody stand-in, the charm of Paris and Allen's inviting fantasy prevail. At a Landmark Theatre.

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