Much has been talked about this beautiful city- its tree-lined boulevards, forever busy sidewalk cafes and the linear, perfectly symmetrical Neo-Classical style buildings have been revered and celebrated in every kind of art and literary form possible time and again. Therefore I don’t intend to bore you with any more ornamental description of this French capital. However, the Paris that I want to take you to belongs to a different era altogether. A time when artists and literary geniuses from around the world used to flock to this ‘City of Lights’ for inspiration. Yes, you guessed it right, it is a nostalgia ride so I request you readers to hop on and lets time-travel back to the Paris of the Roaring Twenties.
Who doesn’t like nostalgia or for that matter want to live in a vintage period of which one has only read about. Who doesn’t desire to go back to an era bereft of modern-day distractions, a time when things were simpler and people were more well-behaved and tolerant of each other. If you could relate to all the aforementioned points, then I am sure you would be able to see yourself or rather identify with the character of Gil Pender played by Owen Wilson from the movie Midnight in Paris. Though marketed as a romantic comedy, this Woody Allen film is a far cry from the conventional definition of a rom-com. It is a story about a man who deems himself a misfit in the modern times. A lover of the bygone era especially the 1920s, Gil is so smitten by Parisian life that he hopes to forgo his successful career as a Hollywood screenplay writer and move to Paris for good. He is disenchanted with his present life and nurses a dream to make it big as a novelist. But his fiancée Inez, who likes her American luxury-filled life back in the suburban upper-class Malibu, considers this idea of her boyfriend insane.
After an evening of heavy drinking, Gil wanders off the streets of Paris and as soon as the clock strikes midnight he finds himself transported back to the 1920s. Thus begins his orgasmic journey as an art-groupie who will have brief encounters with an assorted list of famous writers and artists of that period. Baffled and ecstatic at first, he will soon find himself in the company of American novelist Scot Fitzgerald and his flapper fashionista socialite wife Zelda. Gil befriends the writer couple who then takes him to meet Ernest Hemingway, a role played by Corey Stoll, and undoubtedly one of the best characters in the movie. With his outstanding dialogue delivery and distinctive mannerisms, Stoll literally stole every single scene he was part of.
Gil’s time-travel escapades will become more frequent in the following scenes. Every night after 12, he hops into a vintage Peugeot which carries eminent art world personalities from the Jazz era. During one such outing, the protagonist will come across Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso and his lover Adriana, who he will immediately fall head over heels with. A romantic nostalgic soul herself, Adriana fantasizes about living in La Belle Époque (1871-1914), a time characterized by remarkable scientific and cultural innovations in the western European history.
While travelling back and forth in time, Gil encounters several comical situations. There was a scene in particular where he chanced upon a meeting with the Catalonian surrealist painter Salvador Dali who in his trademark eccentric style compares all of Gil’s predicaments with rhinoceros. One of my favourite scenes in the movie was when Wilson suggests a story idea to the Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel at a party which will leave the filmmaker deep in thoughts. Those who are even a wee bit familiar with Buñuel’s work will definitely let out a chortle in this scene.
While giving a sneak-peek into the lives of writers, editors, poets, songwriters, singers, filmmakers, photographers and painters from the 1920s, Midnight in Paris acts as an ultimate daydream of art and literature majors. Watching this Oscar-winning screenplay is like walking into a nostalgia shop which entices and captivates the visitor’s heart with a paraphernalia of memorabilia from the Parisian Jazz Age.