Okay, so I have arrived a little late for the party, but at least I’ve arrived in time to discover what all the fuss has been about. I’m talking about Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris, the movie that been stalking my Twitter and Facebook feed for months. It’s the film that promised either fame or disaster for France’s first lady, it’s the film that dominated coverage of this year’s Cannes film festival and it’s the first Allen film I have ever independently decided to go and watch.
Yes ladies and gents, my name is l’Anglais and I am not a Woody Allen fan. That’s right, you heard me, I don’t even like Annie Hall. In fact, I always found the sight of this whiny, little, specky man (I’m a glasses wearer myself before anyone accuses me of poor-sightism) forever going on about his personal crises somewhat irritating to say the least. Which is why, five minutes into his latest adventure, I surprised myself by turning to my better half and whispering “That’s like what I do…”
Yep siree, it was the sound of Owen Wilson as Gil Pender (who by the way does an amazing job of being a more likeable version of Allen himself), trying to squirm his way out of a social engagement with some people he doesn’t really want to spend time with, that was so like hearing myself when I am attempting to negotiate my way out of a paper bag. In short this film presented me with something like my own artistic neuroses, sadly without the saving grace of being able to cry into Marion Cotillard’s bosom.
Yes, the scenes of Paris are relatively free of graffiti, homelessness and urine, but this cleansed Paris does exist if you stay strictly on the tourist trail. I don’t think the film would have suffered much had it shown the working Paris, the drunk Paris or the mundane Paris, but this film was about fantasy from the very start and it didn’t begin by pretending otherwise. From the offset this movie was like a romantic song to the joys that Paris has had and still does have to offer. Yes it’s not the Paris I recognise day-to-day, but in those hazy moments of artistic inspiration, on those warm spring evenings when chance brings music and glamour together, then, there, in those fleeting instants, Allen’s Paris becomes almost tangible.
I found myself enjoying the witty script, marvelling at the recreated locations, sympathising with the more mature and therefore less irritating Allen-like lead character. The roll call of talented actors and comedians leant a depth and vitality to the storyline, in which the subject of time travel, and our tendency to look backward rather than forward to the future, became a poignant one. Okay, so it doesn’t break barriers, it won’t revolutionise cinema, but, as a harmless piece of fantasy about an angst-ridden artist, this film is one of the best adverts for Paris the tourist board could ever wish for. And in my case that might mean more work, so I, for one, am an Allen convert.
Oh, and that Bruni person wasn’t too bad either…