Today we are in France…again. However, this time in Paris and this time in the Roaring 20s. That is the Roaring 1920s. I believe it is vital in our journey around the world through films to be exposed to new areas, ideas, and cultures, but also to live in the moment. To try and feel “satisfied” even when we feel “unsatisfied” with life.
Woody Allen (Manhatten, Annie Hall) wrote and directed “Midnight in Paris,” filmed entirely in Paris. Here is a link to every filming location. Although he is my least favorite writer and director in Hollywood (I need not explain why), he has written a beautiful film that, leaves me feeling like I’m missing something.
Allen makes you feel as though you have been transported to the time of A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. As Gil (Owen Wilson) travels back to the 1920s, he meets the likes of Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and Cole Porter (Yves Heck).
“If you stay here and this becomes your present, then pretty soon you’ll start imaging another time was really the golden time. That’s, you know, what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.”
– Owen Wilson as Gil in “Midnight in Paris”
“Midnight in Paris” contains a rich literary history and even more vibrant dialogue. Writers and artists feel a connection in going back to the past to talk to some of the greatest visionaries who ever lived.
Gil is an unhappy writer who finds himself wandering the streets of Paris while on vacation with his fiance and his future in-laws. The next thing he knows, he is talking to Hemingway and Fitzgerald at Gertrude Stein’s house, asking her to read his manuscript. Gil continues these walks and these adventures every night at midnight. As the story unfolds, Gil discovers more about himself than he does the literary characters of the past.
Allen does a superb job of mixing the past with the present. One transcending idea was regardless of what period you lived in; you could not be entirely happy: the true artist lives in the generation before. Only the artists and creatives, the thinkers, I believe, feel this way. Partially because we think more in general, and partly because we always want more: more words, more life, more feelings. The moral of the story is to live in the present and look to the future. The past is the past. It will always be there, but we will not.
Finally, Gil did not go back in time. Right? There is no way this is possible. Think again. There are a couple of clues that Allen threw in the film to make us second guess ourselves. First, a detective that was following Gil went missing and had gotten lost in another century. Second, when Gil read a biography of a girl he had met in a 20s party, she had mentioned his name. Below is one of my favorite scenes.
Overall, “Midnight in Paris” is a delightful, thought-provoking story that makes you think about your place in the history of the world. Artists and writers will especially find the literary characters Gil encountered to be especially charming. Allen keeps things light-hearted even though historically, these characters were experiencing significant difficulties in that period. Watch it. See for yourself. This time in our history makes me wonder what future generations will think about us and what we have contributed to their future lives.