And the Oscar Goes to… Essay
Artists are temperamental. Artists are misunderstood. Artists are discontented. Their struggle for another ‘golden age’ is what drives them on to create transcendent works of art, but it can also lead to an artist’s demise. Such is the case of Midnight in Paris. Such is the case of Woody Allen; the artist. Once hailed by Hollywood as the most prolific filmmaker of modern times, with critically acclaimed hits, Hannah and her sisters (1986), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) and Annie Hall (1977), Allen was on top of the world with several Oscar nominations and a slew of awards under his belt.
However, this did not last for long. Entering into the new millennium, Woody Allen has faded into oblivion with directors such as James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone all continuing a streak once enjoyed by him. Will Midnight in Paris prove to be his saving grace and one way ticket to the Oscars, or has his reign of the film industry finally come to an end? Opening with a scenic montage of the best that the city of lights has to offer, Paris is undoubtedly the creative hotspot of the world. And there’s something special about the midnight hour, something magical and mystical.
The audience definitely sees this as Gill Pender (a struggling nostalgic novelist) wanders the streets at midnight and enters a 1920’s White Peugeot, whose clearly drunk occupants urge him to join them. Whisking him off to a party for Jean Cocteau, Pender encounters Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter and Hemingway, where he learns what it truly means to be an artist. This inevitably leads him to mingle with the likes Gertrude Stein, Dali and Picasso. Sharing insight with the greats, Gill questions his life and puts it in new perspective.
Through the use of time travel, we are transported not only to a different era but to a time of different beliefs as to what the ‘Golden Age’ was believed to be. The 21st century aspiring writer cannot help but consider that to live in another time would be better and simpler, such as Paris in the roaring 20’s. When Gill finds himself in the company of those from that era, he learns that they, too, are longing for another ‘Golden Age. ’ Adrianna (Picasso’s current lover) is convinced that the Belle Epoque era in the 1890s showed Paris at the height of her beauty.
And consequently, those that did belong to the Belle Epoque era believed nothing was greater than the Renaissance. The argument of the film is that one should never live in the past; the underlying, and surely contradictory message is that the past is infinitely more alluring than the present, but nevertheless, the current time is a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying, reminiscent of Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue got Married (1986). All in all, Midnight in Paris is a loving embrace of the city, of art and of life itself. It’s charming and clever, at times wickedly astute and hopeful.
Paired with an impressive cast, gorgeous costumes and soothing background music, this sweetly sentimental film has the concision and snappy pace of Allen’s best work, while credibly blending whimsy and wisdom. Love him or loathe him, Woody Allen is a director who has a flair for the romantic, crazier and dramatic aspect of living life, which translates brilliantly from his typewriter to the big screen. Here is an artist who has just staged his highly anticipated comeback brilliantly, proving that he still warrants a position amongst the greatest visual filmmakers the world has ever known.