Or, at least, I think I do.
But you know how it goes with new favourite movies… I will probably forget all about it next time someone asks me “what is your favourite movie?” And I will splutter and stutter and umm and aaah… and eventually say it’s a toss-up between Amelie, Moulin Rouge and Pan’s Labyrinth.
But, wait! Is this a pattern I see developing before my eyes?
Moulin Rouge, Amelie… and now, my latest favourite, Midnight in Paris (NB not to be confused with a certain heiress’ sex tape, please!). Yup, it seems like the city of light and love has been working its irresistible French charm once again, this time in the form of a light-hearted romcom from the pen, heart and mind of Woody Allen.
Now, I really don’t want to bore you with a plot, because you can find it all over the interweb, for example here, here and here. And if you like film buff mumbo jumbo lingo, this one seems really comprehensive.
I will instead just tell you why I loved it.
1. It’s wacky and whimsical without being over the top.
I mean the main character, Gil Pender, played by Owen Wilson, gets transported to 1920s Paris – his ideal era – at the stroke of midnight every night in a classic old taxi and proceeds to meet Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, and a whole lot of other literary and art legends who used to live it up in Paris. Yet, it gets presented as a highly natural sequence of events – no flashing lights, dream sequences, going down rabbit holes or anything. Just a bit of everyday time travel.
2. The exploration of Golden Age thinking
“Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking -the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.” – A quote from the film
Like Gil, it turns out that I am one of those people with the romantic imaginations who find it difficult to cope with the present. Like Gil, I am convinced that I was born too late, missing the lifetime I should have been part of. Like Gil, I find myself fascinated and charmed by remnants of the past – second hand books and clothes, record players, old-fashioned decor and ideas.
Where Gil was convinced that Paris in the 1920s was his ideal era and place, I have a much vaguer pastoral, nomadic, self-sufficient, flowy-dressed era and place in mind.
In fact, I think its a pretty widespread phenomenon for our era and age group… perhaps a good explanation for the massiveness of vintage fashion?
Anyway, in the film it turns out that this Golden Age thinking isn’t exclusive to modernity, but seems to surface in each era. Like when Gil’s 1920s love interest, Adrianna, finds herself in turn of the century Paris, her ideal era and decides to stay there. Baffled by her betrayal of the ’20s, Gil suddenly has a moment of enlightenment and says:
“Adriana, if you stay here though, and this becomes your present then pretty soon you’ll start imagining another time was really your… You know, was really the golden time. Yeah, that’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.”
3. The characters Gil encounters
I especially loved the machismo of Ernest Hemingway, played by Corey Stoll (quite a hottie, I must say), the insanity and rhinoceros obsession of Salvador Dali, played by Adrien Brody, and the sweet and sultriness of Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard.
4. The 1920s glam
I’ve always loved fancy dress, but as I grow older I find myself being less and less imaginative in the outfits I put together. Looking at the outrageous outfits of the French belles in the 1920s I feel inspired to put in a bit of extra effort once more and have a lot more fun!
Keen to check it out for yourself? It’s showing at the Labia everyday this week, check out the times over here. And I must add that seeing it at the Labia comes highly recommended, as it just fits into the whole Golden Age theme so well.