Visions of Paradise

Friday, September 02, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Retirement has given me the free time to see a lot more movies than I ever saw previously. Our cable-internet-phone triple package enables us to see free movies every Tuesday as well, which is another incentive. Still, I will not go to movies that I have no interest in seeing, which unfortunately is the majority of movies since I have fairly narrow interests in movies, and the movie chain which honors our free pass (it’s actually owned by the cable company) tends to show popular movies rather than serious or indie movies. So I’ve skipped all special effects extravaganzas, juvenile comedies, mindless thrillers and movies whose basic premise is people trying to kill other people.

That has actually left a half-dozen genre movies though, about which I had generally positive reactions:

The Adjustment Bureau, starring the always-good Matt Damon, was a decent and fairly-thoughtful adaptation of a Philip K Dick story;
Source Code, starring Jake Gyllenhal, was an interesting thriller about a man whose mind is sent back in time to uncover the bomber of a Chicago train before he can perform the terrorist act. In some ways, this movie was the dark side of the wonderful Groundhog Day;
Green Lantern is one of my favorite comic books, but his movie was mediocre mostly because it was dumbed-down for the ignorant viewer rather than appealing to people who understood the character and preferred seeing Green Lantern himself rather than swell on a rather wimpy version of Hal Jordan;
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, part 2, was similar to other movies in the series for the opposite reason as Green Lantern: it was basically aimed at viewers who had read the book and understood all the motivations and nuances of what was happening. I have not read the books, so while the movie was enjoyable watching, the logic behind much of it was skimpy.

But the best movie I’ve seen all year, genre or not, was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. First, I was amazed at how good Owen Wilson was in a serious role. He played a man with a successful career as a Hollywood rewrite screenwriter, but whose heart and soul were truly that of a novelist. As the movie opened, he was in Paris with his fianceé’s family. They were rich and uppity though, and did not understand Owen’s love of Paris and particularly his obsession with the Paris artistic community of the 1920s.

I cannot explain why this movie was a fantasy, since those elements snuck up on both Wilson and the viewer, but they became the central element of the movie, and were very successfully done. The fantasy helped Wilson grow and evolve as he learned what was wrong with his life and his dreams, and what he needed to do with his life.

I realize that part of the reason I loved this movie was because I can certainly relate to Wilson’s obsession and frustration with his writing, but I suspect anybody with an artistic passion would enjoy the movie as much as I did. It is the finest Woody Allen movie I have ever seen.


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