Catching Up with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

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05/24/2011 12:53 PM |

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Not that this could have any conceivable relevance to your everyday life, but I noticed this year that a couple of major late-May releases had their press screenings held up to coincide with their Cannes screenings—it made for a nice moment of Twitter synchronicity in re: Tree of Life, but it also meant that the issue of the L currently on newsstands has no review of Woody Allen’s new Midnight in Paris. So, now that you’ve had a chance to see it (everybody just constantly runs out to see Woody Allen movies on opening weekend, still, right?), we’ve put together two reviews to give you something to think about:

Here, Nicolas Rapold considers the lure of nostalgia—how Owen Wilson traveling back in time to 1920s Paris is at the heart of Woody’s cinema of wistful cultural wish-fulfillment:

It’s a well-trodden conceit, at once childlike and fundamental to the Western literary tradition, and also one reminiscent of Allen’s best-selling prose collections; in a way, as both easy gag and surprisingly enduring revelation, it encapsulates much of Allen’s micro-macro humor. As Wilson travels back in time repeatedly, it’s an occasion for easy comedy and wish fulfillment that can get under the skin of any bookworm: the appeal of curiosity fulfilled, idols alive again, searching internal monologues turned into casually illuminating dialogues. Allen drives too hard the grass-is-greener sentiment that haunts every cultural age in the shadow of a gilt past, a longing that spans elegy, eros, nostalgia, or whatever the era’s chosen mode is; but the notion remains as potent as ever (though perhaps not as much as it used to be…).

And here, Miriam Bale sees a new way forward for the Woodman in his choice of surrogate:

Allen’s trademarked anxious, rapid-fire delivery of one-liners quickly ends the dialogue and leaves room for the laugh, while Wilson’s slow, open delivery allows the same kind of lines to take on a hilarious mystery. “’Prufrock’ is like my mantra!” Wilson yells to an unseen TS Elliot, a line that would have seemed like satire if delivered by Allen (and would have most likely fallen flat from anyone else), but in Wilson’s oracular drawl takes on a mystical absurdity. More than an Allen substitute, as almost every male lead has tried to be since Woody stopped starring in his own films, Wilson is something even better: a male version of Allen’s greatest star and the only performer Allen would play second fiddle to, Diane Keaton. Both Keaton and Wilson can seem more intelligent than anyone else in the room—but in an eccentric, friendly and deeply hidden way.

So there you go.