22 October 2011

Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

For more than 30 years I’ve seen nearly every new Woody Allen film, even the ones he’s made since 2000, not all of which were screened in the UK:

These make up a rather mixed bag, and have not all been that popular. I’ve imported Region 1 DVDs of some, so I suppose I’m one of a rather small number of Britons who have seen Hollywood Ending. I can remember watching a showing of Whatever Works a couple of years ago, sat in an audience of three (and one of them was Mrs WI). And I have to admit that the films set in London, Match Point, Scoop, Cassandra's Dream and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger were variable to put it kindly, and at times embarrassingly bad. Match Point had its moments but Cassandra’s Dream was probably one of his worst. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger struck me as a New York story transported to London. The London films are oddly cast, and Allen often seems to have a wooden ear for English as it’s spoken in England.

On the other hand, if I were a New Yorker I might find Allen’s preoccupation with the wealthy West Side milieu of Melinda and Melinda a bit tiresome. However I’m not, and although Midnight in Paris centres around some rich Americans, Allen doesn’t show them in a very flattering light anyway. Midnight in Paris is a romantic comedy about a would be novelist, a well-judged Woody alter ego played by Owen Wilson, time travelling from Paris in 2010 to mix with the avant-garde in Paris in the 1920s. Time travellers in the movies go down a well-trodden path, but the usual tropes of things yet to come (tranquillisers) and of knowledge of the future (suggesting the plot of El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) to Buñuel about 40 years prematurely) are kept under control. Carla Bruni puts in a better performance as a guide in the Musée Rodin than might have been expected from press reports at the time of shooting – ‘Carla Bruni-Sarkozy took 35 takes in Woody Allen scene’, ‘Bruni takes 5 hours to get simple bread scene right’ – and the boulangerie scene, if it ever existed, didn’t make the final cut. The art department did a convincing job with Gertrude Stein’s art collection. As far as I could tell, but I’m not an expert, there weren’t any anomalies in the succession of cute meets with the literary and artistic giants who were in Paris in the Twenties – Hemingway could have compared Picasso with Miró, Buñuel did work with Dali, Man Ray was there while Lee Miller was still in New York.  Attending this exhibition, currently in Paris, would be informative.

So, definitely worth seeing and more fun than Vicky Cristina Barcelona; I hope Nero Fiddled (formerly Bop Decameron), set in Rome, will be as good, but we will find out next year.


I originally and erroneously stated:
suggesting the plot of Le charme discret de la bourgeoisie to Buñuel about 50 years prematurely
which was quite wrong, and thanks to a much wiser blogger, have put it right.  The Discreet Charm ... was about people who couldn't ever get to dine together, not about diners who couldn't get away!


I should have pointed out that Hemingway was played by Tom Hiddleston who appeared in Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago and Unrelated. In contrast to the troubled young men of those films, his Hemingway had the approachable self-assurance that we are getting used to coming from other modern old Etonians like David Cameron. A profile of Hiddleston by Xan Brooks appeared in the Guardian recently for the launch of The Deep Blue Sea.

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