Midnight in Paris

I can’t recall the last time I went to the movies. Regardless, I sprang at the chance to attend a screening of Woody Allen’s new film, “Midnight in Paris,” with friends the other night.

What a wise decision.

I’ve long been a fan of Allen’s films — save for, “Annie Hall,” which I loathe with a rage that burns hotter than a thousand suns. (More on this in a moment.) His wit, his charm, his outlook on life; I adore them all.

His latest offering, in which Owen Wilson more than capably stands in for Allen himself, is a real gem, and a true return to form for the septuagenarian auteur.

Aside from the fact it features an extraordinary cast, many of whom ape artists and other literary icons from the 20th century (Adrien Brody’s take on Salvador Dalí is hilarious; Alison Pil is a riot as Zelda Fitzgerald; and, Corey Stoll’s Ernest Hemingway is a scene-stealer), it puts Paris, itself, centre stage. And for that alone, I absolutely loved this film.

I fell madly in love with Paris at about this time last summer. And Allen manages to capture the magic, the mystery, the magnificence of the city in every shot, every scene. (A skill he has used to great effect when documenting New York, across the pond.) So much so, in fact, that when my friends and I were leaving the theatre, we experienced genuine culture shock when we spilled out of the Towne theatre onto the mean streets of Winnipeg’s Notre Dame Avenue — a far cry from the Notre Dame of Paris, I assure you!

Yes, I was so absorbed by Paris — of today, of the 20s, of La Belle Époque — I was momentarily disoriented by the crumbling sidewalks, empty streets, neglected façades of my hometown. For a brief second, I was at home in Paris, a foreigner in Winnipeg.

And it was that fleeting feeling that I think best captures why I loved this film so much.

Of course, I cannot say the same about Annie Hall — neither the film nor the character, herself, played painfully by Diane Keaton. (Those hats, those pants, that simpering manner. Gag me.) I suppose had I seen the film when it was first released, I might be more sympathetic. I did not, and so cannot be. I find it grating, contrived, and altogether unbearable. Thankfully, “Midnight in Paris,” is none of those things.

I highly recommend Allen’s latest film. It’s a marvellous summer treat, and a pitch-perfect postcard for the city that gave it its name.

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