As promised, hubby and I went on a much-needed dinner date Friday night, and went to see Midnight in Paris. Since its rave reviews at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival in May, I’ve been dying to see it. I’m a new fan of Woody Allen’s work since falling in love with his classic Annie Hall a few months ago, so I have been trying to explore his filmography more. Sadly, his last film, You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger, was only mildly amusing in my estimation.
His newest film, though, is brilliant. Midnight in Paris is the story of a dissatisfied but successful screenwriter, Gil (Owen Wilson) who aspires to write his first novel and break away from the manufactured and blockbuster-driven film industry. His fiance, Inez (Rachel McAdams), is less than enthusiastic about the shift in his creative priorities. While vacationing in Paris with Inez’s parents, they run into Inez’s friend Paul (Michael Sheen), a “pseudo-intellectual” that is an “expert” on everything from French sculptures to literature to architecture and wine. Inez is eager to tour Paris with Paul and his wife Carol, but Gil is visibly and annoyed and sometimes threatened by Paul’s arrogant and often argumentative pseudo-intellectualism.
Set against a back-drop of the ever romantic and sentimentally-filmed Paris, the conflicts between Gil and Inez, Gil and Paul, and Gil and Inez’s parents highlight the inner conflict that Gil has with his writing. Gil, however serious he is about completing his novel, is unsure if he has what it takes to be a legitimate writer. Surrounded by people who question the same thing, Gil pines for a golden era, like Paris in the 1920′s, when Earnest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, T.S. Eliot and others graced the city with their creative geniuses.
As he wanders Paris alone after midnight, Gil encounters in surprising and mysteriously tangible ways his belief that if he had born in that golden era, he would be the writer he longs to be.
Aside from being utterly surprised by the unfolding plot, I appreciated that once again Allen’s work addresses the heart of creative and artistic struggle, mocks it and at the same time consoles it. It’s a natural and naive inclination for all artists to believe that the golden ages of creativity have passed and along with them the “greats” who understood and created art in its truest forms, and that we are now left to mimic and recreate their work; nothing is original anymore. We allow our loss of faith in our generation to influence and taint our own work. We ask, how can we be sure that our work is genuine, meaningful, authentic, moving, timeless?
It has left me wondering, what era do I pine for creatively? What author or artist do I wish I could have met and what would I ask them, given the opportunity? And, how did artists before us feel about their contemporaries and the world they lived in? What era did they pine for and attempt to recreate?
What about you, dear readers? Is there an era, time or place that you wish you lived in, or that influences your work? If you could meet your favorite author or artist, who would it be and what would you ask them?