Nostalgia is a b!tch and Woody Allen knows exactly how to play it against you.
A Hollywood scriptwriter wants to move to Paris and pursue his literary dreams. His fiancé on the other hand, wants to live in Malibu and sit on a $20K chair in the comforts of modern America. From there, the film goes into innumerable tangents tied together by a writer’s dreams.
Gil Pender writes a book about this man in a nostalgia store. He is secretive and does not think anyone is worthy of giving him a valuable critique. One night while wandering on the streets of Paris rather drunk, he gets picked up by some people on a Peugeot. He meets Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald who then introduce him to Ernest Hemingway, who offers to have his manuscript read by Gertrude Stein. One after another, he gets the meet the most intriguing literary and artistic minds in 1920s France.
The film is dreamy throwing surprises at you at every turn. The scene in Versailles where they argue about ‘nostalgia being denial’, the one where Gertrude Stein tells Pablo Picasso that his painting is flawed by his love for his mistress Adriana, the one where Ernest Hemingway talks about making love to a truly great woman and losing fear of death, the one in the end where Stein tells Gill that, “The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence” are all gems. They make you think about the best times of your own past that you want to go back to while you are still in awe about the great people you are watching on screen.
The film is full of lines you want to hear again, conversations you wish to have with someone, intelligence you wish to gather, emotions you wish you could express and times you could go back to. Woody Allen plays with the mind of the artist in you, he tickles your nostalgia and makes you smile at your dreams. In the end though, he plays killjoy with that scene where Gil lectures Adrianna on her wanting live in the 1890s. If I wanted a reality check, I wouldn’t be watching Woody Allen, would I?
P.S: All said, Midnight in Paris is a film theorist’s dream. All the -isms I heard today give me a strange sense of satisfaction! :)