This is rather delayed due to frustratingly crippling RSI. Ow.
I recently saw Midnight in Paris.
[Spoiler alert] Very briefly, it’s about a writer who is in Paris on holiday with his finance. He’s writing a book about nostalgia and ends up going back in time to 1920’s Paris where he hangs out with loads of famous artists and writers of the day like Hemingway and Fitzgerald. He’s falls in love with Picasso’s muse too and it turns out she’s nostalgic for turn of the Century Paris so he realises it’s probably best to live in the present.
Now much has been written of the gradual and embarrassing decline of Mr Woody Allen.
A great deal has also been written of his ‘return to form’, every time he releases something that isn’t sickeningly shite enough to go straight to video (Scoop) or gets utterly and completely slaughtered (Cassandra’s Dream) then it’s lauded as a triumph (Vicky Christina Barcelona) even though they’re never that great (since about 2000 when Small Time Crooks came out)
I’ve been a long time fan and therefore sufferer of Woody’s and I do always try very hard to enjoy his new ones as tricky as that very often is.
Anyway, Midnight in Paris definitely is better and funnier than anything he’s done for years and years AND it is officially his most commercially successful film. So well done there.
It nevertheless has some very awkward problems.
Firstly, ever since he decided that he was too old to play the leading man, which was the correct decision by the way, he seems to be incapable of writing dialogue for anyone else. So whoever is in the lead always seems to be doing an Allen impression. Now in this case Owen Wilson played it very well and it worked, but the problem is the rest of the characters either seem to also have his voice OR they’re incredibly two dimensional charactures OR they’re women, which brings me to my second point. Unless the female lead is Dianne Keaton (or Mariel Hemmingway) I tend to hate his female characters who are either awful selfish bitches or perfect muses. Which was definitely the case in Midnight in Paris (with Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard)
He is a blatent misogynist, which didn’t seem to be so screamingly obvious back in his hey day or maybe I just didn’t notice in those films because they’re so brilliantly sharp and romantic and cynical and hilarious but as his writing becomes more dated and flabby, his flaws are much more apparent. Obviously his well documented private life is difficult to avoid when it comes to this area but I always think it shouldn’t really affect how you see the film.
Anyway I did absolutely love some of it. The scenes set in the 20’s were lovely, charming and witty and the theme of nostalgia had real resonance with me. Although, of course, I already know that nostalgic people are really just trying to escape from the present and it didnt teach me anything new, it was a strange and melancholic feeling to revel so much in the songs of Cole Porter, the fashions, Fitzgerald, Dali et al. and remember that these are times I myself have wished to inhabit but to also know full well that all the memories of the past are always romanticised and therefore we really should just try and live life now. Enjoy the present as they say…… as hard as it is for my generation what with the imminent collapse of the NHS and unemployment higher than it’s been for 17 years and JLS… and Michael Bay.
So Woody’s never gonna get it back and this wont convert any sceptics or even make my 2011 top 10 but it’s definitely not a huge deflating let down .
Speaking of nostalgia… these are the last few lines of Annie Hall…
After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realised what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.
AND a little list action…
Top 10 Woody Allen Films
- Annie Hall
- Crimes and Misdemeanours
- Hannah and Her Sisters
- Deconstructing Harry
- Love and Death
- Manhattan Murder Mystery
- Small Time Crooks