Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Midnight in Paris - A Tale of Magic Realism

"Oh to be transported to that world you yearn for, the times when the creative giants mingled at parties, literary salons and welcome you, caught in a magical time warp, into their midst. You gape with awe at rubbing shoulders with the masters and they are blissfully unaware of who they are to become in the eyes of a future generation" - that in a nutshell is Woody Allen's delightful new movie. We know Allen best from the times of his love affair with New York. Barely has any filmmaker captured the pulse of that enigmatic city and its inhabitants like Allen. And yet now he churns out movies set in European locales. Some are hits, a lot misses. 'Matchpoint' and 'Vicky christina Barcelona' had shades of brilliance. With 'Midnight in Paris', he gets his groove back.

Gil (Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris with his uptight fiancee Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her rich right wing pompous parents. He is a successful screenwriter in Hollywood who is discontent with the hack writing  he produces and longs to leave it all to wander the streets of Paris, which is filled with the footprints of literary geniuses of a bygone era, and complete work on his novel, become an actual writer. Inez, on the other hand, loves her riches and wishes to settle in upscale American suburbia. While Inez lives the night life of Paris with friends, Gil would rather catch some air wandering those historic cobblestone lined streets and at the stroke of midnight encounters magic. A vintage automobile draws up and he is transported into the Paris of the 1920s rubbing shoulders with literary giants like Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald as also artists Picasso, Salvodor Dali.

Magic and reality blend as night after night Gil makes the journey into his favorite period of history and has his manuscript read by the great Stein for some valuable inputs. Glimpses into Scott and Zelda's tumultuous relationship and Hemingway's masculinity, love of adventure and all the famous salon meetings at Stein's residence of the 20s ring true. He meets the luminous Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who is Picasso's lover and muse and finds himself attracted to the rich beauty and deep mind. A man considering himself a misfit in todays times with a desire to have lived in that golden era of American literature slowly gains insight into love, desires and finally finds himself in Paris. A breezy watch, it is heartwarming how 'Midnight in Paris' leaves us with that very important life lesson - whatever we seek for, we should keep at the present else no era will be good enough. 

Peppered liberally with a host of great performances in cameos like Kathy Bates as Stein, Adrien Brody as Dali among others, the stand out performance comes from Owen Wilson who embodies the character Woody Allen played role after role, to perfection. It is safe to say he plays the best Woody Allen after the man himself. The sincerity and enthusiasm shines through in his hero worship for these greats who knew not at that time the greatness writ in their destinies. He is a revelation. Rachel McAdams is efficient as the shrewish, spoilt fiancee. One wonders what brought these two in such a mismatch of a relationship.  Maybe their shared love of Indian pita bread. Marion Cotillard is bewitching and just gazing into those enormously expressive eyes, one can believe her to have inspired great artists.

For lovers of literature especially American as well as art of the early twentieth century, and those responding to the magic of Paris, this is an exceptional watch. For those not familiar, this is an equally enchanting ride. Paris looks picture postcard. There is a brief period when time moves its hands back into late nineteenth century 'Belle Epoque' Paris which is Adriana's idyllic era. There is a certain nostalgia associated with bygone eras. For every era, there is one before it to yearn for. But time, after all, moves forward for a reason. 

Released in 2011
Playing in Theatres

1 comment:

  1. Perfect timing, I would say. Having just returned from an awesome Paris trip...its wonderful to read your blog. I will love to watch this movie.