Saturday, May 14, 2011

Midnight in Paris - Preview

Woody Allen's latest, Midnight in Paris, has won over the early critics in Cannes, although mostly everyone seems to agree that they don't dislike it.

'Allen had made one of his best, probably without giving it too much thought' - Sasha Stone

Allen's whimsical Parisian fantasy is being called silly and sweet but also delightful. The consensus seems to be that it is one of Allen's most focused and entertaining efforts of the past 10 years and, thankfully, it features no older men making it with young girls.

A romantic and nostalgic love letter to the City of Lights, it follows Owen Wilson as unlikely - but reportedly charming - Woody Allen surrogate, Gil, a dissatisfied Hollywood screenwriter / wannabe novelist drawing inspiration from & engaging - quite literally, thanks to a handy time-travel mechanism - with Paris's cultural history.

Midnight in Paris boasts a typically impressive cast, but while the real-world characters are said to be written as broad stereotypes (Rachel McAdams & Michael Sheen are wasted as annoying fiancĂ© & stuck up snob, respectively), the fantasy-world offer more complex and beguiling character - Kathy Bates as a straight-talking Gertrude Stein, Adrian Brody as Pablo Picasso, Marion Cotillard as a mysterious beauty with a taste for seducing artists, and most notably Corey Stall as scene-stealing, contradictory Ernest Hemingway.

Allen has commented lately on his disappointment in his own work as an artist and, in Midnight in Paris, he seems to be contemplating the flawed human personalities that create great art, particularly great literature, and the nostalgia that imbues greatness on the ordinariness of the past.

Allen has worked in Paris before (as writer / actor in 1965's What's New Pussycat, and briefly in 1996's Everyone Says I Love You) but this is the first time the city has taken center stage. New European locations seem to be Woody's creative Viagra, making their mark on his titles and box office returns, but repeat visits seem to yield diminishing returns (London revived his career with Match Point, but not so much with Scoop Cassandra's Dream). Curiously, Allen has yet to explore America beyond the borders of Manhattan - Republican America may be far more foreign to him than the artists of Europe. 

Europe also holds obvious travelogue appeal, and cinematographer Darius Khondji is unsurprisingly being celebrated for shooting the Paris of everyone's imagination.