Midnight in Paris - In Search of La Belle Epoque


I saw Midnight in Paris tonight. and I finally experienced what I have been wanting for years--a superbly written Woody Allen script with him forgoing the acting role to concentrate on directing.  Allen was able to delightfully explore the angst--not the kind linked to anxiety, but a comic struggle between the hopelessness of life and the hope for something that transcends and makes existence meaningful.

In this case, the protagonist Gil, played by Owen Wilson, is a successful Hollywood writer seemingly condemned to write forgetful, but well paying scripts for B-movies. Gil is visiting Paris with his sexy and well positioned fiancé, Inez (Rachel MacAdams) and his disapproving but wealthy, prosaic future in-laws. He longs for the times of the golden age of creativity, 1920s Paris where he can write with Fitzgerald, Eliot and Hemingway and walk the streets of Paris in the rain.

He hints of staying in Paris, living simply to write his novel, but Inez does not share his romantic view and will hear nothing of it. Rather than continue to traditionally tour Paris with Inez and her parents and Paul, a self-proclaimed expert on everything and Inez's college crush, he begs off one night, saying he would rather walk the streets of Paris for inspiration and gets hopelessly lost in the heart of the city's Left Bank.

Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway
Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali
Adrian Brody as Salvador Dali

What he finds is far more than he had hoped--a vintage Peugeot, filled with insistent party-goers picks him up at the stroke of midnight and transports him to 1920s Paris and the company of a "field of dreams" of writers, artists and an enchanting muse. Leaving a party for Jean Cocteau livened by Cole Porter at the piano, Gil and his new friends, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, go to a bar where he meets Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) who talks authoritatively of how men should live.
He refuses to read Gil's manuscript, saying no writer can be impartial, but agrees to take it to Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) where they meet Picasso and his mistress, the lovely Adriana (Marion Cotillard) and she and Gil fall in love.

Marion is mesmerizing as the enigmatic and sultry muse and Rachel is as beautiful as she is pretentious.

Returning each night at midnight to the same spot, Gil interacts with the Lost Generation of Paris to rewrite his novel and cannot believe his incredible fortune to be transported into his dream era. When they travel even farther back in time to Adriana's golden age, La Belle Epoque of the Moulin Rouge, they meet up with Lautrec, Degas and Gauguin who assert that the Renaissance is the golden age. It is here that the conflicts of the story come to a head and Gil has to confront his illusions about the past and present and choose between Adriana, Inez and his dreams

.With a stage-like set-up, Allen tells a story of romance and introspection accompanied by colorful icons and heady eras of art and literature's golden ages of Paris. The writer and director merge in this loving portrait of Paris and the audience laughs out loud when a group of Surrealists led by Salvador Dali (Adrian Brody) hear Gil's story of time travel and take it as perfectly reasonable.

While other critics may fault the limits set on plot, characters and rationalization, I agree with Allen that the focus is on the question of "is there a better time than the one in which we live" and the stage, although beautiful, exists to showcase that dilemma and leave you asking yourself the same question as you walk out of the theater and into your own stage.

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Comments 47 comments

connecthedots profile image

connecthedots 5 years ago from U.S.A.

I just saw this movie day before yesterday. You did a really nice job writing this review of a quite enjoyable film. I've always romanticized the era of Jane Austen's novels(late 18th to early 19th century England) yet I realize it's a fantasy world of Austen's imagination that existed only for the privileged few, if at all.

As we left the theatre, my son and I were discussing whether Gil would engage in any more time travel in Paris. My son argued he would not feel the need to. I agreed, but why give up access to such wonderful adventures?


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, I think you are right, like that old song "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen Par-ree?" I think one night when he can't sleep, he just might find himself on a certain street at midnight. Who knows, he just might end up at Pemberly in time for the ball.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. =:)


attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi Winsome, i haven't seen the movie yet but i love Woody Allen's movies. You have given it a great review and it sounds fascinating. I love movies with a proper story. OK, this one sounds far fetched, but i reckon i'll love it with all those famous characters. No car chases or special effects for me. Cheers buddy.


mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 5 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

My family and I saw this movie. You have done an excellent job with the review. All you literary buffs out there are sure to enjoy the journey here. That car looks like a Rolls-Royce to me.


prairieprincess profile image

prairieprincess 5 years ago from Canada

I would really like to see this movie! You have given me a useful review, and whetted my appetite even more. I know what you mean about it being good that Woody Allen stays away from acting and concentrates on directing. He is a brilliant and creative director.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey AH, thanks for coming by--you will love it. I can see you as Hemingway in the story...you would make him a little more human. Woody Allen has always been able to explore human interaction well and allowing Owen Wilson to fill in for him as the actor makes it easier for us to identify and enjoy. Take your wife, she will enjoy it too. =:)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey MB, wasn't it fun? You had me wondering if my search for the 1928 Peugeot Landaulet 184 used in the car got me a Rolls instead, but I checked and it really is the Peugeot. There is an interesting article about the car here.

http://www.theautochannel.com/news/2011/05/23/5338...


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Princess, you will be transported into a satisfyingly romanticized love story accompanied by a colorful travelogue, history vignette and philosophy class you may not be thinking about but you absorb just the same. Thank you for your comment. =:)


mckbirdbks 5 years ago

Just a note: I think Josephine Baker was also presented in one of the nightclub scenes.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 5 years ago from California

Outstanding write-up, Winsome! This is going on my queue.

Best, G


Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 5 years ago from India

Ahhh...Paris! This sounds like a movie I want to watch! :)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Yes MB, Baker is there along with Djuna Barnes, Luis Buñuel and Man Ray. Gil pitches Buñuel his own film "The Exterminating Angel" which is about people like Gil trapped in their own upper class prison. I didn't want to include everything, just give the essence to whet the appetite. Thanks for noticing. =:)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you G, I was so taken with the film, I sat down and put it all into the article while it was still alive and fresh in my mind. I am guessing that you mean bookmark it and I'm honored. Thanks again for the read. =:)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi my favorite feline--you will enjoy it as feline's often are out and about after midnight. I think I will see it again just for the fun of it all now that I know more about the characters. There is a cameo of "Shakespeare and Company," the bookstore started by Sylvia Beach who collected these "lost generation" authors in her deep overstuffed chairs and they just wouldn't leave. She was the first publisher of Joyce's "Ulysses" and her store is still going strong today under other owners. =:)


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Brilliant Winsome !!

take care.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Eiddwen, thank you, the film is a great example of what a writer can do to transform the problems of his or her world into one of beauty and inspiration. We can't write away all our issues, but we can deal with them in the company of the heroes and villains of our imagination and who knows, one of them may come up with a solution. Cheers. =:)


De Greek profile image

De Greek 5 years ago from UK

You are such a clever boy and I have so much respect for you that I have just asked my son to get me the movie ;-)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Thank you so much Dimitri and I you. This is a movie you will love. The characters and the writing stay out your way just enough for you to enjoy the setting and the engaging premise. It is not high literature, but it gives us a glimpse into the crucible that breathed life into our classics and helps us realize that while the greats are still human and flawed, when the clock strikes twelve in their golden age--ahhh the magic they make. =:)


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

Congrats on the 100, Winsome! You deserve it. Now I can't wait to see this movie. Midnight in Paris, ah, yes, the magic begins. Your writing does it again! xo


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ha ha, I wasn't even aware I'd hit it. Thanks for noticing and yes you will fall right into the Parisian rabbit hole with this one. A Paris where writers romp in a vintage convertible through time and party and banter through the night while mortals dream of tour buses. Brush up on her legends and watch for the clues for out of the corner of your eye they will appear. =:)


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Great review Winsome..I can't wait to see the film, being a die-hard Woody Allen fan and having just returned from Gay-Paree myself. I miss it already.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 5 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hey GL, welcome back--you will feel like you never left during this one. Woody obviously was as much in love with Paris as he was with the writers who helped make it the city it is and it shows in the cinematography. Thank you for coming by and for the kind words. =:)


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

I just saw GL's comment and had to come back for a sec. We will be expecting at least one hub about your trip!! Paris hubs also get some great ads! Thanks Winsome for letting me interject. You're right, I know I will drop into the Parisian rabbit hole, I always do when I see any movie or hear a song that brings back memories. Paris becomes a part of you after experiencing her magic and charm. :)


Green Lotus profile image

Green Lotus 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

Now there's some pressure for me... rE..hmmm ;)


hafeezrm profile image

hafeezrm 5 years ago from Pakistan

Nice write up and pictures. I got immence pleasure as I know, I would not be able to see the real movie.


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

Buying this on iTunes is on my list...

I missed it in the theatre but I am such a fan of the Lost Generation and Woody Allen...I have to own this :)

Great write up.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi UW, so nice of you to drop by. I know you will enjoy the superb job both Owen and Woody do. They employ a sophisticated restraint that keeps the rosy glow on the story.

Maybe we can nudge Simone into letting us have a month of "Lost Generation" type writing for fun. =:)


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

I finally saw it. I agree with everything you said. The writing is wonderful and Owen Wilson is perfect.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

I'm happy you liked it, I was sure you would. I want to see it again, but the only place it is still showing here is in Beverly Hills and I only go there when a vintage Peugeot picks me up at Midnight. =:)


Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 4 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

I bought it at iTunes. I will definitely be watching it again.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Ahh iTunes--maybe our generation is "La Belle Epoque." =:)


Bren 4 years ago

Corey Stoll stole the film as Hemingway, in just a few brief scenes. Every second of his screen time was brilliant and funny. Doesn't hurt that he's easy on the eyes.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Bren, "Stoll stole" very true. He definitely dominated with his Hemingway brusqueness softened by a sincere earnestness of soul. My hat goes off to him, but my heart was stolen by Marion and Owen clearly held his own with every one of the larger than life characters. He was the leading role Woody Allen that Woody tried to achieve his whole career.

I loved your comment Bren, you are hereby commissioned to read more of my articles and create more...I mean it. =:)


rebekahELLE profile image

rebekahELLE 4 years ago from Tampa Bay

I feel ashamed that it took me this long to watch this delightful movie, but I finally saw it tonight. OMG, it took me back to Paris and now I want to go again to walk the streets and imagine I see Hemingway sitting along the boulevard at one of the cafes. His lines were exquisite, like a fine wine, satisfying yet wanting more. I loved the settings and the custume design. When we think of Paris, it is what we see. Marion Cotillard was charming and utterly perfect for her role. She certainly gave the film authenticity. I loved the ending, it brought Allen's objective to a beautiful, perfect ending. We live in the present day and it is up to us whether we capture and enjoy it or continue to live in the past, or dream of a future which may not exist. Now I appreciate your well written review much better than before.


Lisas-thoughts101 profile image

Lisas-thoughts101 4 years ago from Northeast Texas

Winsome,

You did a wonderful job on this review. I wondered when I read your hub on The Muse if you'd been inspired by Midnight in Paris? I saw the movie with my son and we both loved it. We discussed what we believed the most idealic time in history would be. He said he believed it would be the 20s, Hemingway and the flappers and Gatsby. I know this may sound so staid, but I've always thought poodle skirts and juke boxes and drive in restaurants with malts and root beer and a simpler easier time where moms stayed home with kids (and could write full time :)) would be awesome! But I digress. I thought the way Woody handled Rachel's unwillingness to leave her favorite era and Gil's discovery of everyone having his or her own 'paradise' was brilliant. I dream of going to Paris someday and this movie just reinforced that goal. Again, what a great job you did. I do love your hubs.

Lisa


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Rebekah, thank you for the kind words--I had to look up to see when I wrote this--I can't believe it's been 8 months. I'm so glad you saw it, I knew you would love it. Now I have to follow your advice and see it in person. I am saving up, it should be soon. =:)


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hi Lisa, I wrote the Muse a couple of months before it came out, but you're right, it is a perfect example. I love Gil's correction of the snob's explanation of the Picasso painting--he was so happy to talk about the muse from personal experience. Perhaps the whole theme was spurred a little by his desire to really know the city, not so he could impress tourists, but so he could capture it in his writing.

I confess I want to get to know it for the same reason.

I don't think your idea of the 50's and 60's is staid at all--I have often thought that era, just before Vietnam, was our most carefree and "winsome" time. I want to drive up to a Bob's Big Boy and order a milk shake from a roller skating waitress and I want to go to a "hop" and do the twist at a Chubby Checker concert. In fact, I'm listening to the YouTube while I write this. You can too if you go here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbK0C9AYMd8

Thanks for another great comment. =:)


klarawieck 4 years ago

This became one of my favorite films of all time. I loved the whole concept of trying to look for a better time in the past. We all think that way, but the truth is that there is no better time than now. The actors were superb! I loved Corey Stoll as Hemingway. He sounded and acted just like one would picture Hemingway being. Amazing cast!

Thanks for this review.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Klara I'm so happy to hear you say that--actually read--because it has become one of mine as well. I have watched it several times now--lately in theater sound and a 50 inch screen. It is almost like being there.

There may be no better time than now, but like Gil, I would like to write my life out of a B movie and sometimes the right setting and people can pull it out of you. If I find a vintage Peugeot stopping for me some midnight, I promise to make them stop by your house on the way. Listen for the honk. =:)


klarawieck 4 years ago

I'll be dressed and ready to go... Where to?


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

With you it will have to be Vienna 1800's for a private concert of the Sonata quasi una fantasia. John Russell describes his experience:

Beethoven, left alone, seated himself at the piano. At first he only struck now and then a few hurried and interrupted notes, as if afraid of being detected in a crime; but gradually he forgot everything else, and ran on during half an hour in a phantasy, in a style extremely varied, and marked, above all, by the most abrupt transitions. The amateurs were enraptured; to the uninitiated it was more interesting, to observe how the music of the man’s soul passed over his countenance. He seems to feel the bold, the commanding, and the impetuous, more than what is soothing or gentle. The muscles of the face swell, and its veins start out; the wild eyes doubly wild; the mouth quivers, and Beethoven looks like a wizard, overpowered by the demons he himself has called up.”

We might even have time to stop in 1940's Hollywood for the premier of "Song of Love." Hepburn would have been radiant then.

Remember, the Peugeot has a distinctive horn, don't get in the wrong car. =:)


klarawieck 4 years ago

Ahem... You mean "Song of Love" the story of Clara Wieck (the real Clara) and her husband Robert Schumann? By the way, I have a big crush on Brahms. I might just stay in the year 1853 and never come back.

Beethoven playing wildly on the piano... I'd like to see that. :D


Winsome profile image

Winsome 4 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Of course the Song of Love is your story--well the original Clara. I like Brahms too, but who could resist seeing Ludwig himself playing the Moonlight Sonata. I would also stop a few years later and watch the ham Liszt turn the piano sideways so the audience can see him while he plays his Liebestod--or maybe St. Petersburg in 1901 to hear Rachmaninov premier his Piano Concerto No.2.

We will not take Tolstoy with us, he thought all such music completely unnecessary. We will, however, have to stop in 1924 New York for An Experiment in Modern Music, which had George Gershwin premiering his Rhapsody in Blue.

I promise to get you back before the Peugeot turns into a pumpkin. =:)


klarawieck 4 years ago

Ooooh... Can we visit Irving Berlin? I want to hear him sing "Oh, How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning," and we'd just have to catch Led Zeppeling's 1975 tour, right after having a few drinks with Wolfgang... the party animal! Wooohooo!

If the peugeot turns into a pumpkin while we're still inside, you're going to be in deep trouble, my friend! Getting pumpkin gunk all over me! THE NERVE! :D


Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

I loved this movie and have to admit I am prone to wishing I lived in a more romantic era.

Stoll was definitely my favorite as Hemingway.


Winsome profile image

Winsome 3 years ago from Southern California by way of Texas Author

Hello Faith,

Wasn't it the perfect nostalgia movie--

What era would you like to spend more time in? I have been toying with the idea of early San Antonio or King Arthur's England. There are, however, a few necessities and "wizardry" gadgets I might want to bring along in a backpack.

Thanks for visiting. =: )


Faith A Mullen profile image

Faith A Mullen 3 years ago

I think it would either be somewhere around the turn of the 19th century or the roaring 20's for me :)

But I agree, some modern appliances would be necessary...

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