Woody’s Latest Tango in Paris

Jeff and I went to see Midnight in Paris with a couple of Francophile friends soon after its opening. Paris-fans ourselves, we were predisposed to enjoy it, and we mostly did.

An aside: I have a French friend, a conductor, who constantly complains about America’s love affair with Paris in the ‘20s. “Come on!” he says, “There are other periods in Parisian history just as fascinating. The music is just as good! Why does every concert have to feature music from Paris in the ‘20s?”

Back to the movie. If any other director rode roughshod over the laws of physics in this fashion, he would be pilloried. The reviews I read rhapsodized over Allen’s absurd premise that all Gil had to do to find himself in the past was catch a carriage at the right spot at midnight. Then, of course, no one is bothered by his inappropriate dress, Valley Boy-speak and literary pretensions, which most famous writers would find annoying. Lucky for Allen, he convinced a lot of truly wonderful actors to impersonate all those “characters” we know and love, which somehow made it work.

“But Cat,” you argue, “who cares? It’s all supposed to be absurd.” That’s why it didn’t bother me that much. The ‘20s was a time that celebrated absurdity. Absurdist poetry had been around since Jarry’s Ubu Roi and was still going strong.

What really bothered me—and caused my sister to join her cat upstairs halfway through when we all watched it together over Christmas—was Gil’s over-the-top annoying fiancée and her intolerable family. None of that struck me as (as the Hemingway character would say) “true and real.” Okay, Gil says she’s great in bed, but she’s so whiny and selfish, I find that a little hard to buy. Then there’s the absurd premise of him taking her earrings to give to Adriana. What did he think, that his fiancée—who liked the earrings enough to bring them with her to Paris—wouldn’t miss them? Pretty hard to buy, that part.

Jeff and I are big Woody fans. We’ve seen just about every movie. At one point we watched a little marathon, realizing that it was starting to feel like the Woody Allen Show, with the same credits and music for every production—especially the comedies. I even like half-mast Woody, which is where I put this film.

I don’t blame my sister for giving up on it, though I think she would have changed her mind in the second half, which ends in a highly satisfying fashion.

At least my brother-in-law enjoyed it. So score “1/2” for Cat!

My favorite part in Midnight in Paris is Gil’s movie suggestion to Luis Buñuel.

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