One of my favorite movies of the past few years was made by one of the most famous and talented directors of the 20th century.
Director Woody Allen
That film is “Midnight in Paris,” made by the great Woody Allen.
To date, Allen has written 70 different projects and made 48 of those titles into feature films.
Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Allen began writing jokes for a local newspaper at the age of 15, and eventually, he began a successful career as a stand-up comedian.
After a few years on stage, he was approached by Warren Beatty to write a script for “What’s up Pussycat?” and was given a speaking role.
Problems arose, however, when Allen began writing the screenplay so that his lines would steal laughs over Beatty’s.
Beatty became frustrated over the practice and ultimately left the role, only to be replaced by Peter Sellers.
In turn, Sellers demanded all of the best lines and the most screen time.
Allen realized after production was finished that he could not make the films he wanted to with out complete control over his projects.
Since then, he has made about one film a year and written a dozen plays, as well as several books.
But, back to “Midnight in Paris.”
The film tells the story of Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter who travels to Paris with his fiancé and her parents. A hopeless romantic, he longs to have an apartment in the City of Lights while his fiancé, an overbearing, spoiled brat, has decided that the two will live in Malibu, Calif.
Pender is in the process of writing a novel and decides after dinner one night that he will take a stroll around Paris in an effort to drum up some creativity.
He gets lost and ends up on a certain street at midnight when an old Peugeot stops in front of him and a group of people inside it beckon him to join them at a party.
Immediately, he realizes something isn’t right and starts to question where he is when F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, approach him. Pender is taken aback and realizes he is in the 1920s.
Over the course of the next few nights, he returns to the same street at midnight and meets some of the most famous and influential writers, painters, dancers and musicians of the 20th century.
A small rundown of the people he meets includes American ex-patriots Ernest Hemingway, Cole Porter and Gertrude Stein, as well as Spanish artists Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.
Hemingway, played masterfully by Corey Stoll, is my favorite character.
When Pender asks Hemingway about the novel he is working on, Hemingway replies. “I hate it.”
Pender points out that Hemingway hasn’t even read it yet. He is told, “If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”
I’ll leave the rest for you to find out.
The film is quintessentially Allen and includes his quick wit, knack for storytelling, as well as beautiful views of Paris.
The ensemble cast is also wonderful and includes Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, and even Carla Bruni, the wife of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy.
I think one of the greatest things about the film is not only that we get a taste of what Paris was like in the 1920s, but also an understanding that there were so many amazing people who were there at the same time.
These are people who influenced world culture a million times over and continue to do so to this day.
In turn, Allen plays with the audience by having Pender suggest things to the people he meets, so one wonders whether or not he has influenced the past or if the intellectuals did.
It’s a charming notion, to be sure.
The film is not very long and will give you a taste of what it must have been like to be there while the world was being changed.