93 minutes

It's been a long while since any Woody Allen film has captivated audiences as much as Midnight in Paris: it's his biggest US box-office hit ever and one of his best-received recent films worldwide. The latest stopover in an ongoing European tour started in London in 2005 with Match Point that has since been to Barcelona (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) and will next land in Rome (The Bop Decameron, currently in post-production), this Paris fantasy is also mr. Allen's best picture since that first London-set film. It isn't difficult to see that its whimsical premise is the reason that grasped people's attentions: an American writer holidaying in Paris with his fiancee (Owen Wilson as the latest Allen surrogate and Rachel McAdams) is magically, inexplically transported to the 1920s "golden age" of artistic bohemia, meeting Ernest Hemingway (a career-making turn by Corey Stoll), Salvador Dalí (Adrien Brody), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) or Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), and learning important life lessons from them in the process.

     Hardcore Allenians will recognise the tale as a variation on some of his absurdist short stories and sketches of the 1960s and 1970s, or on the earlier whimsy of The Purple Rose of Cairo. But what is noteworthy is that the bitterness and cynicism that has percolated through mr. Allen's films since Celebrity has given way to a serene acceptance of life's setbacks and pleasures, in a glamorous love letter to the French capital that plays freely with its picture-postcard fascination for the city, all the better to dismantle the illusions of the golden past it projects while taking cheap but undeniably amusing potshots to his favourite targets (ignorance, pedantry, the right-wing). The central idea of the film is that the past is never what we believe it to be - a warning about cheap and easy nostalgia, and a point made simultaneously to himself (who continues to soundtrack his films exclusively with the same type of 1920s jazz that he himself plays weekly) and to all those who have been quick to denounce him as a director well past his prime.

     Nevertheless, Midnight in Paris is in fact a much smarter and accomplished film than most of his recent output, recapturing many of the charms of the lovely Paris-set Everyone Says I Love You and showing Match Point wasn't a one-off. There's still life in the old man yet. 

Starring Kathy Bates, Adrian Brody, Carla Bruni, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson.
     Directed and written by Woody Allen; produced by Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum, Jaume Roures; director of photography (colour, processing by Quinta Industries, digital intermediate by Technicolor), Darius Khondji; production designer, Anne Sobel; costume designer, Sonia Grande; film editor, Alisa Lepselter.
     A Mediapro/Versátil Cinema/Gravier Productions presentation of a Pontchartrain production; in collaboration with Televisió de Catalunya; with support from the Spanish Institute for Cinema and Audiovisual Arts and the Catalan Institute for Cultural Industries. (World sales, Imagina International Sales. US distributor, Sony Pictures Classics.)
     Screened: distributor advance press screening, Zon Lusomundo screening room (Lisbon), September 6th 2011. 


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