I was nineteen years old, a student in Rome, Italy when I disembarked from a twenty hour train ride from Rome to Paris. It was November, the middle of the night and raining; my friends and I danced, sang and ran through the glorious, glistening, naked, water-dappled Parisian streets, battered valises in tow; I had never tasted such joy, such overwhelming, unparalleled happiness. Paris, the city of romance, a paradise for the gifted, the avant- garde, where brilliance and creativity destroy, erase mediocrity, the mundane. Here I was wallowing in the milieu of my literary and artistic icons: Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Matisse, Bunuel; yes it was a “moveable feast” and I gluttonously, ravenously, gobbled by the fistfuls, every sensational, savory second.
The first to arrive in a soon not-to-be-empty theater, heart palpating, senses salivating as the introduction to “Midnight in Paris” paints a portrait of a city so beautiful, so enchanting, mesmerizing, religious in its purity, by the worshipful brush strokes of filmmaker, Woody Allen. This is love affair between man and city; a city with the seductive, mythic powers of Helen of Troy, a city with a thousand tentacles clutching, capturing one’s heart and mind; a city, a mistress, never, ever to be replaced, betrayed.
Most of us have had moments of yearning, longing for past eras, nostalgia, envy of simpler times , more glamorous; searching for the potency, fecundity of radiant, effulgent intellects. “Midnight in Paris” is innovative in allowing the protagonist Gil (Owen Wilson), a frustrated Hollywood “hack”, to experience briefly, the halcyon days of the roaring twenties; drinking, hobnobbing with the Fitzgeralds’ , Hemmingway, Dali, Picasso and his muse, Adriana (gorgeous, melancholic Marion Cotillard); Gertrude Stein (marvelously depicted by Kathy Bates) as his literary critic. Cole Porter and his musical genius enhance the deliciousness of every scene. The movie glimmers, excels in these episodes of gloating, passionate living, loving, striving, thirsting for the pinnacle of one’s perfection; whether by word, lyric, canvass, film, or stone.
Unfortunately, the film fizzles in the present. Gil is engaged to a strident, empty-headed, vacuous woman, Inez (Rachel McAdams); there is not a modicum of chemistry between the two. Her parents superficially portrayed as one dimensional right wing idiots. The major flaw is Allen’s incapability of subtracting himself from any, and all of his protagonists. When “Gil” speaks, it it with the “Woody Allen Cadence”; shut your eyes and Allen pontificates.
Anyone who has ever experienced, been cloaked in the magical powers of Paris will relish the visual wizardly shed upon the viewer; others should put the city and movie on their “quest list”.
The unanswered question, enigma to be solved is whether midnight or noon, what time is Paris most beautiful, and in the end, does it really matter?
THREE & 1/2 STARS!!!