Friday, December 30, 2011
Midnight in Paris
(At least mine is from the front!)
The great thing about the screenplay here is that the movie serves as both a romantic fantasy and a pinprick in the fantasy balloon. A tough balancing act, but one Woody Allen manages capably, probably because he's done it before (please tell me you've seen The Purple Rose of Cairo, about which, more later).
Gil's problem (if you can call it that) is that he wants to write "the great American novel" in the age of glistening vampires and dragon tattoos. If you wrote a truly great (whatever that means) novel today, who would know?
His fiancee's problem (if you can call it that) is that she is the least romantic person in the most romantic city in the Western civilization. It's not her fault she would rather go dancing than walk the storied streets of Paris.
Michael Sheen plays a pretentious, loquacious history buff masterfully (as ever) and Marion Cotillard is, brilliantly as always, equal parts magic and tragic as Picasso's mistress Adriana.
Now back to The Purple Rose of Cairo. If for some reason you haven't seen it, here's a quick run down. Cecilia is a lonely housewife in the Great Depression. She loves going to the movies, and the movie playing in town at the moment is The Purple Rose of Cairo starring Gil Shepherd as Tom Baxter, a globe-trotting archaelogist. She swoons over him each time. One day, Tom Baxter comes down off the screen and asks her on a date. The other characters on screen demand he come back so they can finish the movie but he walks out with Cecilia. Gil Shepherd comes to town with some studio executives trying to track down Tom Baxter to ask him to get back on the screen before other movie characters start doing the same (it's comic fantasy, stick with me here). Now, Cecilia likes Tom and Gil (both played by Jeff Daniels in a great dual performance) and has to make her decision as she finds herself caught up in the middle of the kind of romantic comedy she would love to go see. But being in it is no fun in reality, because reality is not the movies, which she finds out. But that said, she remains in love with the movies. Now, while all of this is going on, the other characters in Tom Baxter's movie that are waiting for him to come back are basically trapped in the drawing room of a mansion unable to move on, their polite society beginning to unravel. OK, back to Midnight in Paris. Gil (the Owen Wilson one) tells Bunuel and Man Ray that they should make a movie about a dinner party, where at the end no one can leave the room. Because they just...can't. Well in 1962 Bunuel made a movie called The Exterminating Angel with just such a premise (a mid-century surrealist arthouse 'comedy', which you should also see, if just for the sheep. And the bear. Like I said, you really should se it). And then in 1984 Woody Allen made a movie that made a joke about it, then in 2011 he made another movie that made a joke about Bunuel making the movie he made an extended joke about in 1984, which also has a similar plot about a character being drawn into the world of fantasy. Wheels within cinematic wheels.
This one is an absolute must for any Woody Allen fan. Or any fan of movies. Or Paris. Or Rachel McAdams.
"Purple Rose of Cairo"
"The Exterminating Angel"