I went to the movies again today, and, no, I still have not seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Instead, I went to the local arthouse cinema to see Midnight In Paris, the latest Woody Allen feature. Now, I have a problem with Allen. It is completely unfounded and ridiculous, so I hesitate to share it, but here we go:
In 1978, a little picture called Star Wars was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards for 1977.
So was a picture called Annie Hall. The director of this movie was a man named Woody Allen. At the end of the night, it was he who walked away with the statue, while George Lucas was left empty handed.
Yes, that is really my reason.
Because of this, I have never seen a Woody Allen picture. Well, had, because I saw Paris tonight.
Alright, so the film starts with a nice montage of Paris. I am a francofile. I speak French rather well (or spoke French rather well; i’m a bit rusty now but I still read fluently). I have been to France twice. I did a summer program at Sorbonne University. I drank my first glass of wine in a Parisian cafe. I drank my first beer in a park near the pantheon.
We skipped our art history class and went to a little convenience shop on a hill. The man smiled and did not ask any questions as we dropped two 1693 beers and a box of delicate French cookies onto the counter. We were seventeen and nervous. By the time we got to the park, the beer was warm. We sipped at them slowly and mitigated our gulps with bites of cookie. We looked at each other and said that we couldn’t believe we were doing this. Drinking in the afternoon in a park in Paris. It was so cliche, but it was so damn perfect.
I do not drink in America. Wine does not taste as sweet if it is not sipped under a pale Parisian sun.
See, there I go. For those who love Paris, who miss Paris, who pine for Paris, even a glimpse of the city is enough. The opening montage almost brought me to tears. I saw places I had been.
I ate at that cafe. While it rained I stood under that awning. I stood in the shadow of the Moulin Rouge windmill and imagined that Toulouse Lautrec was painting me.
But the rest of the film could not equal those five minutes of montage.
Because Paris speaks for itself.
But I will get off of my classy Parisian soapbox and turn back to the film which I just viewed. The horrible, horrible film.
Most of the film consist of Owen Wilson, who was better as the tiny cowboy in Night at The Museum then he was as a whining, hopeful writer, trying to convince his girlfriend, Rachel McAdams, that she should enjoy Paris. Reprising her role of the class bitch from Mean Girls, McAdams bitchily shoots down all of Wilson’s hopes and dreams.
So Wilson mopes and whines about how much he’d rather live in the 1920s. Predictably, a car pulls up and a bunch of Parisian socialites drag him to the 1920s, where he meets Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Dali, and every other fucking person who was famous in the 1920s because, fuck it, they all lived back then, they must have all known each other and gone to the same exact parties and frequented the same exact bars.
And no one questions the fact that Wilson is dressed in modern clothes, speaks in modern slang. He even gives his literary friends his manuscript to read. His manuscript that takes place in the modern day. And they only briefly shrug it off. “It reads like science fiction,” one says. “but it’s good.”
So then Wilson meets Marion Cotillard, who is always amazing, radiant, and I have nothing bad to say about her. She’s both sexy and adorable, and her mastery of the English language grows better with each film.
I have no idea why she agreed to be in this film.
In an Inception-like turn of events, Wilson and Cotillard travel back in time again– to the time that Cotillard would most like to live in– la belle epoch.
The lesson we’re supposed to be learning here is that one should be happy in his or her own time. It isn’t the era you were born in– it’s the outlook you have on life.
If you want a more logical film about wanting to live in a different era and falling in love with a chick who is probably dead in the that the main character is actually from, you should see the 1983 film Somewhere In Time, starring Christopher Reeves (pre-wheelchair) and Jane Seymour. It is severely under-appreciated, although it does have a cult following with an extremely active fan club.
It is also the film which I am named after. Jane Seymour’s character is named Elyse McKenna.
So i’m not biased or anything.
It’s a charming, underrated film, and is sure to make you cry if you have any amount of estrogen in your body at all.
So, please. Skip Midnight In Paris, and rent Somewhere In Time instead. Or rent Amelie or He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not or A Bout De Souflee (Breathless) or Paris, Je T’aime, because those films do not try to force Paris upon you; rather, they show how Paris so seamlessly works its’ way into a person’s heart and soul. They do not tell you what Paris should be– they show you what Paris really is.
Or, better yet, go to Paris yourself. Climb the hills of Montmartre, stand on the steps of Sacre Coeur, and look down at all of Paris. Close your eyes and open them and realize that this is real; a city this beautiful really does exist on earth. As Owen Wilson says himself in the film, how can any piece of writing, art, poetry equal the beauty of this city?
It can’t. And Midnight in Paris doesn’t even scratch the surface.