Thursday, October 13, 2011

Movie review - Midnight in Paris

Movie review - Midnight in Paris

I've mentioned my admiration for the works of Mr Woody Allen before, and despite his somewhat repellant views on step-parental care I stand by that judgement. In a rare moment of solidarity the very lovely Mrs Stuffy counts his delightful Vicky Christina Barcelona as one of her favourite films of all time. Mrs S is particularly fond of the way he portrays a place in such a way that even cities one knows well are presented in a very natural but effortlessly romantic and attractive way. I adore his wordplay but I'm also with her on the scenery thing, one of my abiding movie memories is the Gershwin sound track that accompanied the opening monochrome views of his Manhattan.

In many ways, Paris is one of the stars of this movie, presented lovingly by Allen in an opening montage of beguiling images and then throughout the film and the years in such an idealised and alluring way that it had me planning to move there within minutes.

Following the travelogue opening, the arrival of the actors is compromised somewhat by the unnerving realisation that Owen Wilson is actually playing his part 'in the style of Woody Allen" close your eyes and you could be listening to a slightly more laid back but no less nasal and staccato  version of a young Mr Allen. It very quickly starts to feel natural and works surprisingly well with Wilson's diffident charm.
His gentle style and the well-crafted unlikeability of every other American character makes Owen Wilson a sympathetic and attractive lead player and there seems to be a subtlety in his performance not evident in previous outings with such great film presences as Jennifer Aniston, Jackie Chan and Ben Stiller, he obviously needed a quality story and quality direction to shine. (the previous statement may be found to contain traces of sarcasm)

The essence of the story is his nightly transition, (which is very nicely handled) from the Paris of today to the 1920's version populated by Stein, Hemingway, Dali and Picasso, not to mention the lovely (apparently, she does nothing for me I'm afraid) Marion Cottillard as passing muse to most of the artists of the time. It's a lovely tale and well managed and I'm sure I picked up very few of the artistic and literate in-jokes that peppered the dialogue. It may be that this is a film which rewards a second viewing with easy access to Wikipedia.

I found little to dislike in this movie, and much to enjoy, it is beautifully shot, cleverly written and, in these troubled times a very welcome 'happy movie', For me this is a proud addition to Woody's portfolio and pleased me on many levels, if you're an Allen fan, a Francophile, a supporter of intelligent cinema or you just fancy a quality, pleasant movie experience you will, like Mrs Stuffy and I, come out having a conversation, an animated conversation, an enthusiastic, engaged animated conversation rather than,as with so many films, "did you enjoy that?" followed by "s'all right".

A Parisian haiku (with apologies to my many francophone chums, and an anticipation of at least three corrections)

L'ecriveur pensant
Cherches le si├Ęcle d'or
Mais, c'est maintenant,

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