Wednesday, January 4, 2012
I finally got around to watching Midnight in Paris. Why I didn't do it sooner, I don't know. It was fantastic-- but this could be my personal bias towards: Owen Wilson, Paris, the concept of living in an earlier time period and well known authors/artists.
So let's start with the first, Owen Wilson. Why do I have a personal bias towards him-- simple. Bottle Rocket. The 1996 Wes Anderson film starring Owen as Dignon. Dignon's character is perfect. Wilson's brother Luke is also in this film, and as a result I also have a strong bias towards him as well. But my love of the Wilson brothers has continued for many years-- largely in part to my corresponding love of Wes Anderson. (meanwhile, if you have somehow been living completely unconnected with reality for several years and have missed ANY of the Wes Anderson films-- please remedy that very serious problem immediately). As my love for Owen's characters has grown, it is no real surprise that Midnight in Paris is high on the list of likes.
Secondly, let's review this situation with Paris. I went there once-- a long time ago. There are two places in the world that I have visited thus far in which I was left with such a distinct, lasting impression that I will forever hold these places in my heart. One was Paris, the other Chicago-- where I now live. There is something about both of these cities that captured my heart immediately. The architecture, the history and the abundance of art, and the artistic, intellectual lifestyle wooed me from the moment I set foot in either city. Paris- the home of the Louvre- arguably the most famous and most impressive collection of art in the world. How could I not love Paris-- historically the epicenter of literature, art and political intellectual free-thinkers for decades. Each time I think of Paris I see myself in an earlier time, short hair, black turtleneck (yes, I realize that could be today) with a cigarette in one hand (it's the 40's-50's smoking isn't dangerous yet), at a coffee shop debating the finer points of some underground group or novel. Of course I don't live in these times, but rather consider them a moment in which life held a certain validity that we just don't have (especially in America) any longer-- but that brings me to the point of Midnight in Paris.
Throughout the film, Wilson's character is struck by the concept of living in Paris in the 1920's, the romantic view that life in another, past time period is somehow better. He is transported through time to the 1920's and beyond, finally living in a time he identifies with. Of course the moral of the story is that every intellectual artist of any time feels this way and as such we must all realize that each time in which we live is precious, it's just difficult to recognize it, especially when as artists we are all caught up in the past, reading and studying the past writers, and artists.
Thus, the final bias. Well known authors and artists. Look, you throw F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Picasso in a film-- I'm probably going to like it, if for nothing other than the mention of their names. But also manage to throw in their personalities and quotes AND add Dali, T.S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Josephine Baker and Matisse-- and you've got my attention.
Overall, it's a great one. Loved it. And, check out what others have to say:
NY Times-- a historical view
The Atlantic-- a cultural cheat sheet
Let's face it, this film had everything I would fall for going for it. Plus, the added bonus of figuring out that even though I am a literature masters candidate at the prestigious Northwestern University, I am not overly pedantic. --Whew!