I found myself smiling and just enjoying that “Woody was back.” In anticipation, I even bought candy at a “nostalgia” candy store (Turkish Taffy, Clark Bar, Bit-O-Honey).
I also took pleasure in finding that the audience was back, too. In a tiny theater in Montclair, NJ, there was a different kind of buzz that my wife and I agreed we haven’t felt in a movie theater for a long time. And it’s probably mostly because we weren’t drawn to see this at the typical mall-size, multiplex theater. It was as if we were attending a private, long-stalled Woody Allen reunion. (There was even a pre-show live audio introduction, giving us a brief Woody bio and inviting us to “enjoy tonight’s feature” as if we had been transported to a theater in our youths…or in the imaginations of our youths.)
People seemed relieved to find an outlet for laughing at a character in a movie bantering with Hemingway and Dali — after feeling kinda left behind and out of it for not laughing along with a hysterical audience watching a character in another summer hit taking a dump in her wedding dress in the middle of the street. I don’t think it’s that this audience is above gross-out humor; i just think this audience feels that taking a dump and vomiting don’t necessarily warrant elevating the yucks from dorm room status to a large-screen industry and the centerpiece of entertainment of our one free night out of the week. Particularly if we had planned to dine out afterward.
I can imagine Woody finding irony in the academic critiques about Midnight in Paris. As we may find irony in the character of Pedantic Paul being more Woody-like than Gil in his cynicism of the “Golden Age” syndrome. It’s not that Paul was right or wrong about the illusion of a different life being better….it’s the way he and Pauls like him instruct us that certain lessons of life needn’t be debated (“Don’t interrupt, listen to Paul” Inez said to Gil, in so many words, “You may learn something”).
The thing I took away from it was that in Gil’s search for that illusory “better life” than the one he was living, he showed us we have a choice: we can pursue the answer academically, like Paul, the critic and academic, or pursue it through experience, as Gil, the writer and romantic did…..by walking in the city rather than zooming through it with shopping bags in the back of a cab…..by living it, rather than lecturing about it…..by getting the girl in the bookstore willing to get wet….rather than the girl that comes dry-cleaned with a don’t-follow-your-dreams, strings-attached “cheap is cheap” parent-approved philosophy of life.
I heard one person walking out of the movie theater argue playfully with his spouse that “the whole time travel fantasy thing was cliche and undermined the message” — but I think the time travel device was kind of the point: the movie, “Midnight in Paris” — and movies in general — are like the art and all the artists we met in the film — they are their own fictional, time-bending account of life through art that ask us to consider if “the present is dull” and if ” a life different from our own would be much better”?
— My take is that It’s ok to contemplate these questions and even take a summer course on it at NYU, reading and analyzing all those great works…but, isn’t it a helluva lot more fun to test it out in real life, past midnight?…to play(write) at it and fantasize a bit? To walk and talk it over in the rain? To live it up out loud?
Ha! Will be interesting to see if a certain other movie gets new life after being referenced by Gil to Bunuel…