Midnight in Paris: C'est Magnifique!

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Midnight in Paris:  C’est Magnifique!

I spent last night reacquainting myself with an old friend and fell in love all over again.   That’s what seeing “Midnight in Paris” was like for this old Woody Allen fan, that hasn’t been much of a fan for some time now.

I was barely a teen when I got introduced to Allen’s wickedly witty, warped sense of humor in the form of “Bananas”.  It was the beginning of a joyous love affair as I grew into adulthood indulging in every morsel doled out during the most prolific period of Allen’s movie making career.  You know, back in the days when he was the ultimate triple threat of writer, director and star.  While I loved all of those crazy movies, I have always thought “Take the Money and Run” was the funniest.  And while many will always hold up the Oscar winning “Annie Hall” as Allen at his best, my personal favorite will always be “Manhattan.”  The movie was just a total love song for the big apple.  “Midnight in Paris” is in many ways the same thing for the city of lights.

Back then, I was beyond shocked when my best friend told me he didn’t like Woody Allen movies.  He said they simply weren’t funny.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  How could he say that when he had such a great sense of humor and Woody’s films where all the rage?  It took watching a film with him to finally understand.  He simply didn’t get it.
And there lies the problem with why Allen’s films have never had a mass appeal and never will.  As much as I loved my friend, it does take a certain level of sophistication and knowledge of the arts to ‘get’ Allen’s jokes.  And trust me, even the most erudite are going to need to break out their old Humanities cliff notes to get a grip on the voluminous ‘jokes for the elite’.  But boy oh boy, what you do get is a veritable all-you-can-eat buffet of laughs for the cerebrally inclined.

At heart, “Midnight in Paris” is a sci-fi romantic comedy.  A young couple (Rachel McAdams and Owen Wilson) accompany the woman’s parents to Paris for a business trip.  But while the parents (Mimi Kennedy and Kurt Fuller) and their daughter are of a single mind, the man, Gil (Owen), is absolutely smitten with the city.  He’s been a screenwriter of hack and has just written a novel as his first artistic endeavor.  Being in Paris ignites his passion for Paris in the 1920’s, a time when art flourished amidst a bevy of heavy hitting creatives.

Then one night he decides to stroll the streets alone and soak it all in.  He gets picked up by a passing vintage car and its wild, celebrating occupants.  When they arrive at a party he is greeted by none other than Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald!  He thinks their ruse is funny and charming until her realizes they are serious and this is no costume party.  Meeting Hemingway, seeing Josephine Baker and others have him alternately shaking his head and grinning, wide-eyed, from ear to ear as he tries to soak it all in.  Hey was that Cole Porter really singing and playing Cole Porter?!

When Hemmingway takes Gil to meet Gertrude Stein (Kathy Baker), so that she can critique his manuscript, he meets Picasso and his current muse, Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and immediately falls in crush.

Gil repeats his midnight time travels for several nights meeting more and more interesting artistic luminaries and this is when you’ll need those cliff notes to keep up with the never ending who’s who of the Paris art scene from the ‘20’s.  The lush romantic nights are in stark contrast to his tourista days of sightseeing with his girlfriend’s know-it-all professor (played to pedantic perfection by Michael Sheen!) and shopping and dining with her boorish parents.

Hey, I know I didn’t ‘get’ all of his jokes, didn’t know every artist and you won’t have to either to find plenty to laugh about.  What you know about Dali, Hemingway, Picasso and the human condition are enough to see you through.  But I for one will be brushing up on those cliff notes before I see it again-and I’m sure again.

Allen’s script is multi-layered, inspired genius and will surely be remembered as one of his very best.  I foresee Oscar nominations for Best Original Screenplay, Best Director, Best Art Direction and Best Costumes.  While there are several good performances the best performance by far is the script.  It’s hard to believe that just last year I was so disappointed by his other French inspired movie, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” that I opined:
“A disappointing effort from Woody Allen.  Devoid of his crisp dialogue, his meandering plot didn’t inspire laughs, sorrow or any real emotion whatsoever.  I don’t need his movies to be the laugh riots that launched his career or his dramas that spurred self introspection but they need to say something-anything.”

This time Allen is saying quite a lot.  It’s good to have you back, Woody.  You have been sorely missed.

“Midnight in Paris” kisses 4 Red Vines for giving my mind and funny bone a work out

LADIES ROOM LOWDOWN:  Allen wasn’t the only old friend I got reacquainted with last night.  I took one of my best, most prolific fine art girlfriends, Deb Jones.  She too is a Woody fan and the most impressive world encyclopedia I have ever had the pleasure to know.   Needless to say she got even more of the references than I did and we had such a ball watching this together.  I thought I was gonna pee when the movie took us to a Surrealists wedding!  The imagery was off the wall-literally!  While she would have loved to have seen more artists depicted, I told her Allen couldn’t possibly make a movie like that as only she would get it!  I myself would have loved to have seen D’Jango, as Allen has used his music probably more than anybody else’s. 
My friend also pointed out the hilarity of having Hemingway be such a pivotal character and there was Mariel starring in “Manhattan”.  Talk about levels of filmmaking!  Seeings how “Manhattan” is my favorite movie I should have gotten that first!  Shame on me.  God, I love my friend, Deb!

A preview of this movie was provided to me by the studio but it in no way effects my unbiased review.