Even as Woody Allen continues to age, he showcases his filmmaking ability. Midnight in Paris from 2011 is a prime example of this. At over 75 years old, Allen creates an enthralling comedic work with strange and wonderful elements of fantasy.
The story follows Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a movie writer who is attempting to craft his own novel. He loves the beauty and inspiration of the city of Paris. Vacationing with his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) in this historical city of art, it is obvious right off the bat that Gil and Inez are not suited for one another. Allen does a remarkable job setting up the backstories of these characters in their first conversation that lasts only about a minute. This is a classic component in many of Allen’s films. Inez finds Gill’s fascinations to be silly and obsolete, making no effort to hide her feelings. Inez and Gill tour the city with another couple that Inez knows from her childhood. One night, after a long day of touring and drinking wine, Gill decides that he will go back to the hotel and turn in for the night, while Inez and the other couple go out dancing. This is where things take an odd turn in the story. As Gill stumbles back to the hotel with senses dulled by the alcohol, he finds himself lost. He accepts a ride from total strangers, who take him out partying. Gill recognizes that something extraordinary is occurring when he comes across celebrities from the 1920s such as Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, and Ernest Hemingway. Gill travels back and forth between time periods throughout the film, meeting idols of his that have been long dead, and continuing on with his present-day vacation. He becomes increasingly connected with the past, and in turn, out of sync with the present. This makes for an entertaining movie-watching experience.
Yet, providing entertainment to the audience was not Woody Allen’s only goal in this film. There was also a deeper message about contentment in life. As Gill Pender travels through time and goes back to the “good old days,” he meets another woman named Adriana (Marion Cotillard) for whom he develops feelings. Gill recognizes that Adriana herself is not satisfied with the time period of the 1920s. She wishes for an even earlier time, which she had heard so many wonderful stories about. Gill’s interpretation of this was a bit more pessimistic than mine. Basically, he realized that it doesn’t matter what time period you come from, because you are never going to be satisfied with it. You are always going to long for the past. According to Gill, life is simply not as pleasurable as it is cracked up to be, so you just learn to accept the time period in which you live and milk it for what it is worth. I on the other hand prefer a more optimistic approach. Life can in fact be rewarding and pleasing if you accept all of the benefits that come with your time. There is nothing wrong with nostalgia, it is just important to live in the present and appreciate where you are more than anything.
In looking at the significance of the characters compared to the story, it is really difficult to say that one of these elements is more important than theother. The story is incredibly unique. For a reason that is never revealed, time travel is possible in one particular alley in Paris just as the clock strikes midnight. Gill Pender discovered this by accident, and gained a lot of insight about life along the way. However, some of the people he met were crucial to the story. Very influential writers, musicians, and artists of the early 19th century drove the story forward as Gill came into contact with them. He gained perspective on the world as he looked at things through their eyes. The concept of time travel makes for a very intriguing plot, but the famous figures that Gill encountered made the story even more compelling. For this reason, I would place equal value on both the characters and the story.
As for cinematic components that are icons of Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris has plenty of examples. The first three minutes or so of the movie is a montage of shots from around the city of Paris, showing off its charm and elegance. This location that will propel the story onward is highlighted. There is absolutely no dialogue in this group of scenes. However, there is a playful, quirky music number that becomes a recurring theme throughout the movie. This creates a lighthearted feeling that will stick with the audience for the entirety of the film. While there are some heavy morals to be taken from this story, they are somehow conveyed in a lively, humorous manner. Woody Allen mastered this craft in the many movies he created during his career.
Although there were not any obvious conflicts like you would find in anaction movie, this film did portray some conflict on a more indirect level. As Gill Pender finds himself surrounded by the likes of Gertrude Stein and Pablo Picasso, he has absolutely no idea what is happening to him. Is he hallucinating or going insane? This is an excellent illustration of a Man vs. The Unknown conflict. The other cases of conflict that are present in this story, such as Man vs. Himself and Man vs. Society, are directly connected to the time travel portion as well. One of the reasons why Gill is so fond of the 1920s is because he wishes to have lived in that era. He does not think he fits in with the present-day society. Yet, he eventually overcomes his own beliefs and learns to be content with his position. This lesson will lead to more happiness in his life.
To conclude my analysis of this film, I will say that my viewing of Midnight in Paris brought me a lot of delight. This was not a conventional story of time travel that leads to reality-altering developments. Instead, it was a light, friendly narrative with a meaning that was deep, yet amusing. It was refreshing to see that time travel does not always have to involve the fate of humanity. Personally, my overall grade for this film is a “B+.”