Friday, August 26, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Midnight in Paris / Midnatt i Paris [could be called Keskiyö Pariisissa]. ES/US © 2011 Mediapro / Versátil Cinema / Gravier Productions. EX: Javier Méndez. P: Letty Aronson, Jaume Roures, Stephen Tenenbaum. D+SC: Woody Allen. DP: Darius Khondji. PD+AD: Anne Seibel. Set dec: Hélène Dubreuil. Cost: Sonia Grande. Makeup: Thi Thanh Tu Nguyen. [No original music but a great 1920s soundtrack, the list not available online]. S: Jean-Marie Blondel. ED: Alisa Lepselter. Casting: Stéphane Foenkinos, Patricia Kerrigan DiCerto, Juliet Taylor. Cast: Owen Wilson (Gil Pender), Rachel McAdams (Inez), Kurt Fuller (John, Inez's father), Mimi Kennedy (Helen, Inez's mother), Michael Sheen (Paul Bates), Nina Arianda (Carol Bates), Carla Bruni (museum guide), Yves Heck (Cole Porter), Alison Pill (Zelda Fitzgerald), Corey Stoll (Ernest Hemingway), Tom Hiddleston (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Sonia Rolland (Josephine Baker), Daniel Lundh (Juan Belmonte), Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (Pablo Picasso), Marion Cotillard (Adriana), Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle), Emmanuelle Uzan (Djuna Barnes), Adrien Brody (Salvador Dalí), Tom Cordier (Man Ray), Adrien de Van (Luis Buñuel), Gad Elmaleh (detective Tisserant), David Lowe (T.S. Eliot), Yves-Antoine Spoto (Henri Matisse), Laurent Claret (Leo Stein), Vincent Menjou Cortes (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec), Olivier Rabourdin (Paul Gauguin), François Rostain (Edgar Degas). 100 min. Released in Finland by Scanbox with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Jaana Wiik / Nina Ekholm. DCP 2K viewed at Tennispalatsi 3, Helsinki, 26 Aug 2011 (day of Finnish premiere).

The 39. feature film directed by Woody Allen is one of his most lightweight. It is a romantic fantasy comedy about a young engaged couple travelling to Paris with the fiancée's parents. Gil is a successful Hollywood screenwriter with ambitions to write a novel. Inez, the daughter of a wealthy family, is a matter-of-fact woman with little patience for illusions.

I agree with critics that this is a minor Woody Allen film, but there are interesting features in it.

1. While it is a romantic comedy, the development is about the two main characters (Gil and Inez) realizing that they are wrong for each other.

2. Gil is the identification figure interested in the culture and history of Paris so deeply that every night he makes virtual trips to his "golden age" of the 1920s. Inez seems to be the conventional and prosaic killjoy with a sense for immediate reality only. But gradually Gil realizes that Inez is right. The funny and original concept of the comedy is the development of the fantasy time travel. Gil visits his golden age of the 1920s, but Adriana, his beloved during the time trip, wants to go back to the early belle époque of the 1890s and the artists they meet there dream about the Renaissance. Inez's father hires a detective to follow Gil's nocturnal adventures, and the detective gets lost in time and finds himself chased by the bodyguards of the Sun King. Gil has to come to agree with Inez that nostalgia for a lost golden age is a romantic illusion. And maybe Hemingway has taught him a lesson, too.

3. There is a travelogue and tourist advertising film aspect in the film, it is "Paris for beginners". Woody Allen is happy with the best-known things about Paris, but I hesitate to use the word cliché. Chaplin and Hitchcock worked like this, too, starting with the best-known things. This is the illusion of Paris, but it is also an aspect of the real Paris. Woody Allen's showing the first-timers' Paris befits his story. The opening montage is a counterpart to the one about New York in the movie Manhattan.

4. The parody of snobism in the character of Paul Bates (Michael Sheen) is the flipside of the conscious naivism of this movie. Paul Bates belongs to Woody Allen's most enjoyable snob figures.

5. The dozens of vignettes of famous artists are a bit hit and miss. Among the most memorable performances are those of Alison Pill (Zelda Fitzgerald), Corey Stoll (Ernest Hemingway), Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), Vincent Menjou Cortes (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec), and Olivier Rabourdin (Paul Gauguin).

6. Marion Cotillard (Adriana) and Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle) are charming, and Rachel McAdams creates a fine caricature as Inez. Owen Wilson is a funny new alter ego for Woody Allen.

7. Inez's parents are Tea Party Republicans, and Gil is a Democrat. Gil provokes the old folks humoristically, and their dead silence at his remark about free debate is so perfectly timed that it leads to the biggest laughter in the movie. Their silence is also slightly ominous. Midnight in Paris is the Hollywood screenwriter's Rive Gauche adventure.

The English Wikipedia: "This is the first Woody Allen film to go through a digital intermediate, instead of being color timed in the traditional photochemical way. According to Allen, its use here is a test to see if he likes it enough to use on his future films." Already in the beginning the park, the nature, and the long shots look denatured, very digital. The electric, artificial, video green looks like colorized. No problem with close-ups and interiors. By seeing this movie I could never tell that it is the work of Darius Khondji.

Beyond the jump break there is a list of the film's Paris locations:
"The film’s locations include some of Paris’s most cherished sites, including: the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, the grounds and Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, Musée de l’Orangerie (Monet’s Water Lilies paintings), Musée Rodin, Musée des Arts Forains, Marché Paul Bert (flea market), Rue Montagne St. Genevieve (where Gil goes at midnight), Notre Dame Garden Square - Jean XXXIII (where the museum guide translates for Gil), Place Dauphin, Maxim’s, Quai de la Tournelle (book stalls), Pont Alexandre III, as well as the restaurants Le Grand Véfour, Les Lyonnais, and Lapérouse." (From the film's press material: the production notes).

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