An American explores Midnight in Paris
by Domenico La Porta
11/05/2011 - Right from the opening clarinet notes of his 47th feature presented out of competition as opener of the 64th Cannes Film Festival, Woody Allen sets the tone he has used in his recent cinematic travels.
Through filming his city, this New Yorker has sometimes been unfairly reduced to the status of an admirer who, film after film, has offered declarations of love to the Big Apple. Shooting in Paris with a mainly American cast, the director of Everybody Says I Love You returns to the City of Light for the second time in his filmography and it is without the slightest infidelity that he transposes his passion with the charm and humour usually associated with him.
In Midnight in Paris [trailer], the "Allenesque" character is Gil (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood-based author passing through Paris with his wife-to-be (Rachel McAdams). She wallows in the bourgeois superficiality offered by the French capital while Gil is much more attracted to the city’s cultural history where his artistic idols have flourished. Every evening from midnight onwards, he goes to meet them during initiatory wanderings in time, until he is integrated into their circle and shares their muse played by Marion Cotillard.
From Ernest Hemingway to Luis Buñuel, Cole Porter and Salvador Dali (in an amusing performance by Adrien Brody), Allen takes delight in depicting Paris of the 1920s, as he would have liked to explore it, through flighty and inspiring encounters.
Don’t expect to find the grey suburbs in Midnight in Paris. As with Vicky Cristina Barcelona [trailer], Allen films the picture-postcard city through the eyes of an amazed tourist. But in the end, it’s a shortcut to the collective image which shouldn’t offend Parisians, because while Midnight in Paris certainly indulges in simplification, it is never reductive.
Allen is a Cannes regular. The US director, who didn’t wish to be in official competition, has already had 11 of his features screened out of competition. Well received by the press at its screening, Midnight in Paris has all the ingredients of an ideal opening film and is a good-humoured start to the festival.
Those familiar with the director’s work will see it as another autobiographical piece about the personal concerns of its filmmaker, who himself regrets never having moved to Paris at the time in his life when he really wanted to. The strong cultural element of other references will also delight art lovers whose interests go beyond cinema.
(Translated from French)