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Midnight in Paris

A beautifully envisaged valentine to all the literary luminaries who lived in Paris during the Roaring Twenties.
By Hilary Simmons
October 17, 2011
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By Hilary Simmons
October 17, 2011
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Midnight in Paris, which opened the Cannes Film Festival in May, is a deliciously frothy, light, fun film which shows Woody Allen is still in top form. Few film directors have experienced as many dizzy highs and debilitating lows as Mr Allen at the box office, but his 41st film definitely has that certain 'je ne sais quoi' that holds you in thrall to this most irreverent of directors.

Gil (Owen Wilson), a self-described Hollywood hack screenwriter, is in Paris with his sexy but spoilt fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams). Gil wants to walk around the higgledy-piggledy streets in the rain; Inez prefers the company of her Tea-Party type parents and an insufferable pedant called Paul (Michael Sheen). Gil is, we are given to understand, financially successful, but harbours an increasingly desperate desire to move to Paris and strike out as a novelist. He's already written most of his first novel — aptly about a man who runs a nostalgia shop — but Inez isn't exactly encouraging him to finish it off because she fancies a beach house in Malibu.

One moonstruck night, Gil wanders off on his own after a wine tasting, slightly drunk and somewhat maudlin. As a bell rings midnight, a yellow vintage Peugeot pulls up, and unseen champagne drinkers beckon him into the carriage. Gil finds himself magically transported back in time to his favourite era, Paris in the 1920s. Suddenly, he is swapping witty repartee with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, and Pablo Picasso's muse, the beguilingly lovely Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

Allen's film is not just a love letter to Paris; it's a beautifully envisaged valentine to all the literary luminaries who lived in Paris during the Roaring Twenties. Some literary references will make you wish you had paid more attention at university, but others, like Salvador Dali, are gratifyingly universal. He sprouts some very funny lines about rhinoceroses.

Midnight in Paris isn't a serious film — it makes no effort to justify how or why Gil can time travel, because it simply doesn't matter. It's an exercise in fanciful filmmaking, a frolic through his light-as-a-feather fantasy of bohemian Paris. The most implausible thing about this film isn't, strangely enough, the plot; it's that Gil is with a woman like Inez in the first place and that he can tear himself away from Gertrude Stein's famous salon long enough to trawl expensive furniture shops with her.

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