Movie Mirrors Index

Midnight in Paris

(2011 c 94')

En: 8 Ed: 7

Written and directed by Woody Allen, an American writer visits Paris with his fiancée and her parents, but at midnight each night he spends time with famous writers and artists and in the 1920s.
      In Paris people enjoy living. Gil (Owen Wilson) talks about how much he would like to live in Paris and imagines what it must have been like in the 1920s. He would give up his writing and his home in Beverly Hills. Inez (Rachel McAdams) says she would not like to live there, and Gil says he is in love with her. She says they have to get back to town to meet her parents for dinner.
      In a beautiful hotel Gil with Inez tells her parents John (Kurt Fuller) and Helen (Mimi Kennedy) how he would love living in Paris. The four drink wine, and Gil congratulates John who says he is excited about a corporate merger with a French company, but he dislikes French politics. Gil says we can hardly blame them for not going along with the United States into the war in Iraq. Helen objects, and Gil says he believes in democracy and respecting different views. Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol (Nina Arianda) come up, and Inez introduces them to her mother and father. Carol says Paul is lecturing at the Sorbonne. Nancy says they are driving to Versailles tomorrow, but Gil says they are committed to a lunch with a professor who met James Joyce. Inez says they would love to go to Versailles.
      Inez and Gil come into their room, and she hopes he will not be as anti-social tomorrow. He asks how he was and says he is not as taken by her friends. Gil says Paul is a pseudo-intellectual. She suggests that he show his book to Paul for his criticism. Gil admits he is only a Hollywood hack because he never tried to write a literary novel until now. She asks him to promise that if his new book does not work out that he will go back to writing for the movies. She hopes he will not give up success to struggle.
      At the Versailles gardens Paul gives them a guided tour. Carol asks where they plan to move to, and Inez says Malibu; but Gil would like to live in a Paris attic. Inez says Gil is not sure he can write a novel, but everyone likes his scripts. She urges Gil to tell them about his lead character in his novel. He declines, but Carol says he works in a nostalgia shop. Paul asks what that is and who would want that old stuff. Inez says Gil would like to live in Paris in the 1920s. Paul says nostalgia is denial of the present; it’s “golden age thinking” and is for people who have trouble coping with the present.
      Inez and Carol look at a wedding ring and talk as they walk on the street. They are both afraid that Gil may give it all up to move to Paris.
      A Museum Guide (Carla Bruni) tells the four young people about Rodin’s sculpture of “The Thinker.” Paul tells the others that Rodin died of the flu in 1917. Inez tells Gil that Paul knows so much. Paul says Rodin was influenced by his wife Camille, but the Guide says she was his mistress. Paul says he never married Rose, and Inez asks Paul if he is arguing with the Guide. He admits he is. Gil says he just read a two-volume biography of Rodin, and Rose was his wife, not Camille. Inez tells Carol that her father invited them to a wine-tasting, and Carol says Paul is an expert on wine. Privately Inez asks Gil when he read a biography of Rodin, and he asks why he would do that.
      While they are tasting French wine, John says he prefers California wines. Inez goes aside with Gil, and they talk about drinking more wine. Paul warns about sex and alcohol, the one increases the desire for the other but ruins the performance according to Shakespeare. He critiques the wine they are drinking. He and Carol are going dancing, and he invites Gil and Inez. Paul wants to take a walk, and Inez says she will go with Paul and Carol. Inez urges Gil to take a cab and warns him not to get lost. Gil says he will walk.
      In a cab Paul asks Inez if Gil is a good writer. She says he won’t let anyone read his novel. Paul offers to read it and critique it for him, and the women agree he needs that. Paul agrees he won’t pull punches. Inez says Gil has no respect for others’ opinions of his work.
      Gil walks at night on a cobblestone street. He asks a couple about the Hotel Bristol, but they do not speak English. He sits on steps and hears the church bell toll midnight. An antique taxi pulls up, and people urge him to get in the car. Gil says he is mixed up, but he is handed a glass of wine and gets in. In the cab they drink and laugh and talk.
      They go into a nightclub where they hear Cole Porter (Yves Heck) singing “Let’s Do It.” A blonde woman from Alabama asks Gil what he writes, and he says he is working on a novel. She says she is Zelda Fitzgerald (Alison Pill) and calls over her husband Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston). Gil says they have the same names, and Scott repeats their names. Zelda says he seems stupefied. Gil says he recognizes the man playing the piano. Zelda says she could not write such song, and her talent is in drinking. Gil says that man could not have written the music. Scott says they are having a party for Jean Cocteau. Gil does not know what to say, and the Fitzgeralds agree they are bored. Scott invites Gil to go to the party.
      They ride in an open car. In another club they see Josephine Baker (Sonia Rolland) dancing and singing “La Conga Blicoti.” Gil is amazed. Scott wants a whiskey sour and introduces Gil to Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll) as a writer. Gil says he likes all his books. Hemingway talks about bravery. Zelda asks him if he liked her story, and Hemingway says it was unfulfilled. Zelda goes off with a toreador. Hemingway urges Scott to write and warns him that Zelda is wasting him. Hemingway says Scott has a gift. Hemingway asks Gil if he likes Mark Twain, and Gil says he is a huge fan. Hemingway asks if he boxes. Hemingway asks about his novel, and Gil says it is about a man who works in a nostalgia shop. Gil asks if it sounds terrible, and Hemingway says no story is terrible if it is about courage and grace under pressure. Gil ask him to read his novel which is 400 pages and give his opinion. Hemingway says he hates it and tells him he does not want the opinion of another writer. He says writers compete. Hemingway offers to show it to Gertrude Stein. Gil says he will get it, and he is excited. Gil goes out. On the street Gil talks to himself about meeting these famous people.
      In their room Inez tells Gil she had fun last night, and he asks what she would say if he said that he saw Ernest Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald. She assumes he was dreaming. He describes what they are like, and she says he is psychotic. She wants him to go out shopping with her, but  he says he will stay in.
      Inez and Gil are shopping with Carol who admires an expensive wooden chair. Gil says they are trying to keep expenses down.
      Carol and Inez share an umbrella on the way to the car, and Gil suggests walking in the rain but gets into the car too.
      That night at the steps Gil has his manuscript and tells Inez how incredible this is. Modern cars drive by. He says when she finds out, she will wonder why he did not act even more strange. She sits on the steps, feels tired, and leaves in a cab. He asks himself what he is doing wrong. He hears the midnight bell again. The old cab arrives, and Gil gets in.
      Hemingway tells Gil about his assignment to take a hill and describes what happened. Gil asks if he was scared. Hemingway says he will never write well if he fears dying. Gil admits it is his greatest fear. Hemingway asks if he ever made love to a beautiful woman, and Gil says his fiancé is very sexy. Hemingway says then you feel true passion and lose your fear of death; but Gil says that does not happen. Hemingway says cowardice comes from not loving enough. Sufficient passion pushes death out of one’s mind. The cab stops.
      Hemingway and Gil go in and meet Alice B. Toklas (Thérèse Bourou-Rubinsztein) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) who is describing a portrait that lacks objectivity. The abstract painter Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) speaks in French. Gertrude talks about the painting’s implied sexuality, and she asks Gil’s first impression of Adriana (Marion Cotillard). He says she is lovely. Hemingway says Picasso  has lost all objectivity, and Gertrude argues with Picasso. Hemingway lights Adriana’s cigarette. Gertrude asks to see Gil’s book and reads the beginning. Adriana says she already loves it. Gertrude says she will start it tonight.
      Adriana is reading a newspaper in another room, and Gil comes in to talk with her. He says he was born too late. She says she would prefer the belle epoque, and he says she speaks good English.
He asks about her, and she says she moved there to study fashion. She fell in love with Paris and the Italian painter Modigliani for six months. She says Braque had many other women. She says Picasso’s marriage is on and off. She asks about Gil and says she loves Hemingway’s writing. Gil says he is just visiting. She urges him to move there because it is good for writers. Hemingway comes in and invites Gil to go out for a drink. Gil tells Adriana he cannot go with them.
      Gil walks back to his hotel. While lying down he talks to himself about those he just met.
      Helen tells Inez and Gil that they saw an American film they enjoyed. Inez asks Gil how late he came in last night. He hears an old record playing a Cole Porter song and talks to a young woman Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) who works there. Inez tells him they have to go.
      At a museum Paul tells Inez, Carol, and Gil about Monet, and Inez tells Gil not to interrupt. They look at the painting Picasso was painting the previous night, and Gil tells the story he learned from Adriana about it and his and her relationships. Gil says she was a knockout, and Inez asks what he was smoking.
      At a restaurant John says the food is too rich. Helen asks Inez where Gil and Carol are. Inez says Gil has been walking around Paris, and she is going dancing with Paul while Carol is laid up. Inez leaves, and John tells Helen he does not like Gil; but Helen does not like his idea of having Gil followed.
      Gil is dancing the Charleston in a nightclub and sees Adriana and the Fitzgeralds who walk off. Gil talks to Adriana enthusiastically. She takes him to see a carousel from the turn of the century. Hemingway comes up with a wine bottle and drinks her drink, refilling it for her. He asks her to choose between him and a revolutionary fighter. He asks if she ever shot a charging lion. Gil says he has hunted only for bargains.
      Outside Gil and Adriana talk and walk. He says that a great city is a fantastic art form, and Paris is the best. They see street walkers, and he admits he likes cheap sex. They walk by the Seine, and Adriana stops Zelda from jumping in to kill herself. Zelda says Scott fell in love with someone. Gil gives her a valium and says it will make her feel better.
      At a bar Adriana and Gil are drinking wine. He says she would like Inez, but they do not agree on everything. Adriana says she should go and leaves. Gil sits down with Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), and he says he will paint Gil who says he is in a perplexing situation. Dali introduces Luis Buñuel (Adrien de Van) and Man Ray (Tom Cordier), and they sit down. Gil tries to explain that he was from the future. Buñuel understands that. Gil says he is getting married but is not sure he still loves her. He admits he is drawn to Adriana who is attractive to great men. They each see this situation as a different form of art.
      In his room Gil sees Inez in a towel and tries to pull her into bed, but she says Paul said they have to go into the countryside. She will not miss it because of Gil.
      Gil meets the Museum Guide and asks about how Rodin could love two women, and she says he loved them differently. She remembers he was with the pedantic man.
      John hires detectives Duluc and Tisserant to follow Gil at night.
      That night Gil waits by the steps, and Tisserant sees him get into an old car at midnight. Gil learns it is T. S. Eliot (David Lowe) and gets in.
      Gil visits Gertrude who is trying to help Picasso because Adriana has left him. She read Gil’s book and tells him he has a clear and lively voice but not to be a defeatist.
      Inez and Helen are putting bags in a car, and Carol says Gil is going to miss a great weekend.
      Gil walks by the Seine, goes to the art shop and asks Gabrielle about Cole Porter. She says he wrote many songs about Paris. He buys a record and goes down the street and buys a used book in another language.
      The Museum Guide and Gil sit on a bench as she translates the book about artists. The author says she is in love with an American author she just met named Gil. She says Picasso and Hemingway are in love with her, but she is drawn by Gil because he is unassuming. She says he is about to marry Inez, but she had a dream in which he came to her and they made love.
      In his room Gil empties a little purse and puts earrings in a small box with a ribbon around it. As he opens the door, he sees Inez and her father John. She says he had chest pains, and they come in. She asks Gil why he is dressed up with cologne, and he makes excuses. Gil offers to help. Inez asks about the present in his hand, and he says it is for a special dinner. She wants to show her necklace to her mother who often says they like cheap things. Inez asks where her pearl earrings are, and he asks if she brought them. Carol urges her to report the theft, but Gil warns against jumping to a conclusion. Inez complains that Gil takes the side of the help. Gil goes in the other room, opens the box, and comes back with the earrings, saying they were in the bathroom. A doctor attends to John.
      Gil buys earrings in a shop.
      Gertrude asks Gil if 500 francs is fair for a Matisse, and he asks if he could pick up something. He says he brought a rewrite and asks for her advice on it. She says Hemingway is back and that Adriana is through with him and Picasso. She says she will be glad to see Gil.
      At a party Gil finds Adriana and says he is good at picking up on vibrations. He asks about her complicated feelings for him. He does not know what is going to happen. He sees Buñuel and suggests an idea for a movie. People at a dinner find they cannot leave the room, and he asks him to think about it.
      Gil and Adriana walk on a street at night, and he kisses her. She asks what he is doing. They sit down, and he says in the passion of the kiss he felt immortal. He says he wants to let his writing career go, and he hands her the box of earrings. He has her put them on, and she sees a carriage that stops. They invite her in, and she and Gil go with them to Maxim’s. Gil and Adriana dance, and she enjoys the belle epoque. Later they sit at a table and watch women dancing the Can-can. They see Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (Vincent Menjou Cortes), and she persuades Gil to go over with her to meet him. He invites them to sit down, and Gil says he is an American. Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas talk to them about which is the best era. Degas asks her to do the costumes, but she says she does not live in that era. Adriana and Gil go off, and she says she does not want to go back to the 1920s. He says it is great, but she says the present is boring. He says he came from 2010 to her era. He says the 1920s are the golden age for him. He says those in the belle epoque think the Renaissance is best. Gil tells her about a dream he had about people who do not have any anti-biotics. He warns her that the present seems unsatisfying. She says she is more emotional and will stay in this era. He is not sure he would be happy in the past. She kisses him goodbye and walks back to the others. He says goodbye.
      Gertrude tells Gil his rewrite is an improvement. She says that Hemingway read the chapters and made a suggestion that the  protagonist does not realize that his fiancée is having an affair with the pedantic guy. Gil says it is denial.
      In their room Inez in a robe says Gil is crazy if he thinks she is having an affair with Paul. Gil says Hemingway makes sense. He mentions others, and she says they are all dead. He says Faulkner said the past is not dead and that he agrees. He says she can fool him but not Hemingway.  She admits she was with Paul for a few nights and tells him to get over it and put it in perspective when they go home. He says he is staying there because they are not right for each other. She answers the door and tells her parents that she and Gil are breaking up. Gil agrees, and Inez says Gil has a part missing. Her father agrees. Inez opens the door and tells Gil to walk the streets. He goes out, and John tells Inez that he had a detective follow him. Carol asks what happened, but John says he does not know but that the detective is missing.
      Gil drinks while sitting at a sidewalk café. He comes out of a used bookstore.
      At midnight Gil by the Seine sees the pretty antique dealer. He says he is moving to Paris. She says she thought about him when her boss got a new album of Cole Porter songs. He likes that and asks if she is going home. He asks if he could buy her a cup of coffee. It starts raining, and they both like walking in the rain. She says her name is Gabrielle, and they walk together.
      This fantasy comedy contrasts the great literary figures and artists who lived in Paris in the 1920s to the current era through the mind of a writer who would rather create literature than be a successful screenwriter.

Copyright © 2012 by Sanderson Beck

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