Kissing Paris. Missing the Past.



A writer in Paris - a character with similar background played by Woody Allen in Everyone says I love you - is protagonist in this new and highly acclaimed work of Allen. Gil, his first name, faces something very miracle this time in Paris. He met several world-renowned artists, writers, and art collector there. Nothing surprising? How about if they are... Well, let's not include too many spoilers here. Anyway, they are from the past, from the golden epoch. It is only possible to appear in a really metropolitan city like Paris that treasures art and creative minds so much that talents from all over the world were / are attracted.

Paris is the object of desire here in the movie. For the recent movies of Woody Allen that set in European cities, Midnight in Paris is the only one that shows Allen's intense appreciation in the metropolis set in the movie. The different touristic scenes and quiet corners of Paris, the sunny and rainy streets, and the bridge over a pool of water lilies in Giverny are enough to evoke pleasure from Francophile like me.

Thus, this is the starting point and context of the nostalgia which is the theme of the movie. This nostalgia starts from the dissatisfaction of one's own present life. Gil is neither satisfied with his job as screenwriter in Hollywood nor the novel he is working on. He is neither pleased with the "pseudo-intellectual", Paul, he met in Paris, nor the appreciation of Paul by Inez, his wife-to-be. Later, when he meets Adriana, a lover or mistress of Picasso (oops, can't help giving out spoiler), he can't help being attracted to her charming character and appearance and thus falls in love with her. Since then, Gil is not satisfied with Inez who enjoys shopping, dancing, listening to Paul's analysis of paintings, sculptures and wines at the present moment more than exploring the past with Adriana. From the past, he realizes the fact that people from whichever era thought of their previous period as being better, more glamorous, and more exciting. So how can we get out of this last-generation-is-better complex? Woody Allen gives us a way out: finding someone to appreciate the past with you. Gil finally meets Gabrielle who loves Cole Porter and the raining Paris as he does. Thus, this nostalgia is not just looking back, but looking back with hopes in the future - a the-best-is-yet-to-come happy ending.

Yet to achieve that, one has to endure the loneliness in the midnight before actually meeting a partner. The road to the dreamland is lonely: scenes of Gil walking alone on the street are frequent. Even though when Gil is with Inez and her parents, he is lonely and separated from the "background". Do we all feel somehow the same way like this? When we know something that others' don't, we feel lonely. Yet doesn't this feeling of "being different" make us unique, just like those artists who bear different peculiarities?

This opening movie of Festival de Cannes 2011 is a top-notch work of Allen. It is hilarious yet not vulgar and the lines are shrewd, not rattling at all. The casting is excellent. Owen Wilson is amazingly natural as Gil. Given his Texas background, he can emerge to be a writer from the East Coast, just like what Allen's said in an interview. To start a film festival in France, this film has done a superb job to greet other brilliant works ahead.

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