Woody Allen pops up into my attention every so often. I loved a few of his movies in the 80’s. His exploration of addiction and faith in Hannah and Her Sisters is a favorite. The movie bank of cable channels has been hammering away with Midnight in Paris for the past few weeks. My wife and I have wanted to catch that film from start to end for awhile. I first caught Owen Wilson talking like Woody Allen when someone was channel-surfing. This was interesting, I thought. You can still tell a Woody Allen movie from dialogue and camera like you can pick Philip Glass out of a crowd.
I think Mr Allen does fantasy quite well. In Midnight, he follows my “Rule,” take one fantastic idea and pursue it to where it leads. In this film, Owen Wilson catches a cab at midnight and finds himself dialed back ninety years to Paris where he encounters writers and artists from what he believes is a golden age of sorts.
Sometimes Woody Allen can be self-indulgent. Forty-some films made. It can be like best-selling authors: they get into a groove (some say rut) and close themselves off to better input from others who can make the work better. With true artists, it’s about the work. Not the self. When it’s about the self, the work decays from art to celebrity and narcissism.
That’s not to say that Mr Allen isn’t dogged by narcissism. I never liked his first swell of award-winning movies from the seventies all that much.
The material in Midnight in Paris–the cinematography, acting, and script, and especially the premise really overshadow the filmmaker. Which is how it’s supposed to be. The resolution of the plot isn’t terribly complicated. We wonder all through the film why Gil and Inez are together. And it gets resolved. We wonder why Gil doesn’t get off the stick and really write–and he does. And at the end, he doesn’t indulge his trip to the past. He finds inspiration and affirmation from the great artists of the twenties, and then he moves on in the present. Simple stuff, really. But impeccably done. And I loved the send-up Gil gives the “Pedantic One” when talking about the Picasso. Just the right amount of indulgence there.