Amusing Take on Nostalgia for a Lost Paris

This is my review of Midnight in Paris [DVD][2011] [2012].

During a holiday in Paris with his prospective in-laws, Gil, a young Hollywood screenwriter who longs to get a novel published , finds himself transported each night on the stroke of midnight into the world in which he nostalgically thinks he should have been born – the 1920s Paris of Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. At first, I thought this sounded too silly and feared the film would be full of pretentious arty allusions that I did not “get”.

In fact, the encounters with an array of writers, painters, film-makers and so on prove highly amusing even if you know little about them. The audience laughed out loud at the sight of Adrien Brody made up to resemble Dali, and there is the ongoing humour of Gil causing confusion by letting slip his knowledge of what is going to befall the various characters. There is also his infectious joy every time he recognises some famous face.

The modern-day scenes are also entertaining, with each character possessing a distinct personality even down to the minor characters of Michael Sheen’s “pedantic” academic, with an eye to an affair with Gil’s sexy but petulant fiancée Inez, or Carla Bruni acting quite well, if out of character, as a self-effacing tour guide.

The opening scenes of Paris, in sun and rain, remind us of the timeless allure of this city, and the background of Woody Allen’s beloved slow saxophone jazz, and the Cole Porter and Noel Coward tunes from the `20s, also help to capture the nostalgia for Paris which we all begin to understand if we don’t already feel it.

Owen Wilson is very effective as a mouthpiece for Woody Allen, capturing him even in the slightly scatty and bewildered air and tone of voice, but of course not resembling him at all in being tall, blond and blue-eyed.

This is light, with no claims to anything deep, and turns out to be very enjoyable and in some ways unexpectedly quite wise and thought-provoking about the way, no matter in which age they are born, people tend to hark back to an earlier golden age.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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