Midnight in Paris (2011)

Movie- Midnight in Paris (2011)


Woody Allen has succeeded in capturing the essence of romanticism, which works just like charm, albeit with more class and style, and the heart of all that it represents- nostalgia, a brewing concoction of deep and vivid emotions. Because being romantic often evokes nostalgic elements, in prose or influence, it is often a walk down memory lane.

And what a walk this is. Imagine a stroll on the favourite hour, a cool dark night, air of mist and mystery rising, of desire and lust in the settings of a beloved city, freed of stress and burden and in the mood for poetic and intellectual stimulation- in other words, the perfect condition for literature and art, and on top of that, meeting all your childhood idol, engaging all the while in a stimulating discussion. The idea makes one salivate and dizzy with excitement.

Gil Pender has that luxury here, of circumstances strange and never explicably understood, of being transported back into time. Yet that sense of rationality must not be held as law, as Gil pondered and explained to his fiancee while rewriting his novel, that the crippling desire for reason could stifle and mute creativity, like all relationship and men stale after being too realistic in life. It is that desire to dream, and in his own words, to go crazy with my imagination.

After that overwhelming awe subsided we see Gil moving freely and comfortable around his peers, before they were world renowned and recognised, and being able to hold his drive, thoughts and ideas among the legends, just like he was one himself and in the back every bit as talented. But the struggle is there and without hard work there is no stage set to perform our individual magnus opus. And I like that idea, of being reminded that even geniuses like Salvatore Dali, Pablo Picasso, Matisse, Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tom Eliot, Paul Gaugin, Man Ray, Luis Bunuel, all had a point where they had to work really hard to prove themselves.

But what is it about art, that in between those simple fine lines so many men has found brilliance, madness alike and taken so many breaths away. One of the things I’ve understood in my many trips to museums is the essence of perspective, and in it the beholder sees anything and everything, art is rarely square and definite, the meaning is abstract, our opinions contrast, and our convictions lies a polarity of worlds apart from the man standing next to you. And the strange beauty is that the wilder and madder in its abstraction, the more acclaimed the genius in the painters, yet off the canvas those same genius are sometimes weird, occasionally mad, and most certainly quirky. The irony I’m trying to strike at is this- being normal seems to be mad in the eyes of those raving erratic geniuses, and being mad seems to be normal in the paintings of them we have carefully kept and worshipped. Maybe Aristotle finally got one thing right in saying, “No great mind has ever existed without a touch of madness”.

I especially loved the cover picture of the movie as seen above, Paris warped into a Vincent Van Gogh classic in Starry Night, and probably one of the most recognised paintings of Western art culture. It reminded me that Paris is indeed a tale of two cities, old and new, and a constant in civilisation. Paris can sometimes leave a taste of regret, in that people who go there with the perfect image of a postcard city will leave with disappointment, as throngs of tourists had, but it is still and truly the City of Love, and no bit less charming than the manners of Parisians themselves, because with a little wit and humour we can sometimes return the favour, and the fun. Disclaimer- Do not let externalities spoil Paris.


“Ahh, men will come and go, but Paris! Monsier, Paris will always stay!”

We see a higher purpose in Pender, of being stuck in a familiar territory where individual talent are not directly proportionate to the output of work produced, being wasted on cheap Hollywood scripts and unable to find the breakthrough. The themes are all identifiable, and can be easily summarise- We are all much more capable than what we do. What is it that is slowing us down? I leave the answer to the readers themselves.

“This is the time we live in, everything moves so fast. Life is noisy and complicated” – Adriana


It amuses me that time is all knowing, all seeing, and everywhere. Time is the final destination. Maybe some day we will get looping machines that takes us to the past and the future, but for now, we are blinded to it as fate dictates, servants to the shackles imposed on us, both a gift and a curse. Where would my golden age be if I had a choice? The future excites and scares me, and the past romances and dulls me. Maybe we already know the answer, like Gill, but needed to go back one step further to see the clearer picture.

Or maybe it is the girl, because like all other beginnings, it often starts with a city, and a girl. Adriana, and the long walks with her in the city, 1920s-esque Paris, awashed in the orange street glow, curving lanes and stoney brick roads. Isn’t that how courtship should be like? In those walks we can take a girl into a different dimension, filled with adventures, interaction and chemistry. It is also where many men has succumbed to the deep vaults of love in those strolls, repressing impulses to steal hands, kisses and hearts.

Being in a new environment is even more stimulating, in Gil’s case a double whammy of a foreign place and a foreign time, but just travelling is enough to be a constant assault on all your senses. Travel is the freedom to wander in a different culture and gain new experiences, the flaming filaments of memory that beats time, that even years after the fragments can easily be pieced together. The thing is, I really like to travel. I don’t think I can ever get enough of it in my lifetime, but believe me when I say it’s not from the lack of trying.

Midnight in Paris closes off in the same way it started, reminding viewers that it is the city, that draw it’s people, and Gabrielle would reiterate the opening lines – “Paris is the most beautiful in the rain”; for me, Monsier and Mademoiselle, rain or no rain, Paris and the sense of being in a foreign city, will always be good enough for me.

Published in: on September 7, 2015 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

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