Fifteen years writing for print, on-line & radio. I love the movies, any kind of movies. How did I become a critic? It all started with an eight-month stint in Seoul, South Korea as a lighting consultant on film sets, where I doulbed as film critic for The Korea Times. A B.A. with a double major in Chinese and Asian Civilizations with a minor in Art History, it was this last subject that provided the nasty bite of the film bug. Graduation only led to matriculation at illustrious NYU and later at School of Visual Arts while working daytime for the Taiwanese government. Studied acting with Oscar winner William Hickey at New York’s legendary HB Studios, collaborated on several unproduced screenplays with writer-director Niels Mueller and wrote Love Trapped in Baghdad for the Chinese market. Favorite directors: Coppola, Malick, Marx Bros, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Orson Welles, and the Italians, of course, De Sica, Roberto Rossellini, Visconti, Leone & Fellini.
Here we go with my very first review for Ganzo: Midnight in Paris by Woody Allen.
A café crowded with the smoke of a hundred Gauloise, a flow of wine as endless as the river of conversation. The topics are art, politics, poetry, aesthetic form and meaning, and did I forget to mention love? This is the Lost Generation, Paris in the twenties defined by some of the most influential artists of the century; Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Salvatore Dali, Luis Bunuel and Amedeo Modigliani, among others.
Gil is in Paris with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams), in the weeks leading up to their wedding. This is where Gil (Owen Wilson), an anxious screenwriter from Los Angeles, will find his muse. We first meet him on a walk through timeworn streets and alleys, proclaiming how much he loves La Ville-Lumière.
Inez, however, is pining for a Malibu home on the beach. Soon we meet Inez’ conservative parents to whom Gil once again proclaims his love for the city. Moments later he is again proclaiming how much he could settle there and write. We are five minutes into the movie and have heard this three times now.
That is to say much of the dialogue in Midnight in Paris is redundant, clunky and sometimes the kind of thing a character might think but wouldn’t likely say. This is a pitfall of too much autonomy. Sometimes in Midnight in Paris, as in other Woody Allen movies, the filmmaker could use a pair of fresh eyes on the material. Inez and Gil are not an easy fit and when an old friend of hers, Paul, (Michael Sheen as an erudite know-it-all), enters the picture all bets are off. Paul is the kind of guy who can sully any museum visit with a long litany of facts, even contradicting a docent played by French First Lady, Carla Bruni. Insightful, illuminating, annoying, he is a one-dimensional character who exists only as a foil for Gil.
But Gil, as it happens, would rather take a walk in the rain. And walk in the rain he does one drunken night when he loses his way and stops to collect himself in front of a church. There, at the stroke of midnight, an antique limo rolls up and Gil is invited to join F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald for a night of drinking. Gil quickly discovers he’s been swept back in time to the period of his pining. In a café, he talks about writing with Hemingway (captured in caricature by Corey Stoll), and soon he is whisked away to the home of Gertrude Stein where he meets Pablo Picasso and his muse, Adriana (Marion Cotillard). Gil quickly falls in love with Adriana, a kindred spirit who longs to visit Le Belle Epoque, an era she romanticizes as much as Gil does the twenties.
Now, finally, a plot develops as Gil woos a woman he cannot possibly have. Unfortunately, Gil, Inez and Paul are thinly drawn characters and the first half of “Midnight in Paris” seems to go nowhere. But soon enough it becomes clear that this is a movie that takes its time, just as one might on a walk through the alleys and boulevards of the French capitol. What initially seems haphazard and occasionally trite develops into a sensual tale of romance and nostalgia — how the past looks better than the present; indeed how our present will one day look positively charming to some future, hapless generation. Owen Wilson is miscast as a slightly neurotic scribe but his affability carries him through. His scenes among the Lost Generation require him to become a passive cheerleader as he marvels at the famous and talented names around him. Rachel McAdams is woefully underused in a role that is only roughly sketched in. Likewise Michael Sheen who is called upon to do one thing only and that is spout facts about various works of art and architecture. Marion Cotillard, however, is the ideal gamine to capture Gil’s heart. She is warm and inviting, believably casting a spell strong enough to make him turn his back on reality.
Argentina – 30 June 2011
Czech Rep – 9 July 2011 (Karlovy Vary Film Festival)
Denmark – 11 August 2011
Germany – 18 August 2011
Poland – 19 August 2011
Finland – 26 August 2011
Sweden – 2 September 2011
Hong Kong – 8 September 2011
Italy – 2 December 2011