Music Literature Film Index About

Midnight in Paris, Directed by Woody Allen

Sony Pictures Classics, May 20, 2011 (US)

Screenplay: Woody Allen

Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, and Michael Sheen

(Rachel McAdams): You’re in love with a fantasy.

I was everywhere and I was nowhere. I was at one of the best concerts I never saw except I couldn’t remember if was The Doors at The Whiskey or Jimi at Woodstock. I know it wasn’t The Beatles at Shea because nobody could hear a damn thing over all that screaming, although I imagine the energy from that scene would have made for the memory of a lifetime.

Screaming. Would you hold it against me if I told you it was me who unleashed, “Judas!” at Bob Dylan from the back of Free Trade Hall as electric guitars ripped the folk out of a generation?

Front and center, I walked out of a dream, making it back in time to see a midnight queue outside some soon-to-be-bankrupt Borders where the latest Harry Potter installment is about to be released. The same building is now stripped bare except for the faint smudge of a logo removed from a dirty, stained yellow-bricked facade. Full steam ahead, we thrust forward, warp speed into the 3D-days of Beiber-Fever, vampires, and ebooks. Meryl Streep is starring as Meryl Streep as Dan Aykroyd as Julia Child as Margaret Thatcher. Oscars for everyone.

Adriana (Marion Cotillard): He says that this generation is empty and has no imagination.

Can you really blame me for boasting about what it was like to have dinner with Marcel Proust at Maxim’s during La Belle Epoque? Over many glasses of champagne, we discussed, predictably, the concept of lost time, which I took as my cue to reveal to Mr. Proust that I had arrived at his very table from somewhere in the future. He seemed to take the news in stride although I can’t say for certain he heard a word I had said. He seemed rather preoccupied, deep in thought. Nevertheless, I decided to expound, telling him how I once met a writer named Kerouac who, besides being the handsome face and jazzed-out voice of a wonderful new movement of writing in the States, also turned out to be just about the coolest cat you’d ever want to meet, present company excluded.

Paul (Michael Sheen): Nostalgia is denial—denial of the painful present … the name for this denial is Golden Age thinking—the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.

At the whimsical suggestion (insistence) of Gertrude Stein, I found myself on a plane to Morocco, where I was directed to meet up with Paul Bowles. Forgive me if the details get a bit sketchy from there (we shared a bit too much kif) but I will say that I remember visiting his good friend Bill Burroughs in some dank, stuffy room where a healthy assortment of drugs, needles, and associated paraphernalia would have assuredly been the most memorable peculiarities of the scene if not for the many pages of a manuscript that were strewn all over the floor. It made navigating the room (particularly in our state) rather challenging. I heard that Allen Ginsberg came one or two weeks later and single-handedly created order from the precious chaos, and well, the rest, as they say, is history.

Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) I’m Gil Pender. I was with Hemingway and Picasso. Pablo Picasso and Ernest Hemingway. I’m Gil Pender from Pasadena, Cub Scouts, I failed freshman English. Little old Gil Pender has his novel with Gertrude Stein.

Fuck it, Proust. I’ve never been to Morocco. Truth is, I’d barely been to Indiana. I’m just a simple guy from some burb on the outskirts of O’Hare Airport where, along Manheim Road, billboards once planted exotic seeds. It was right around 1990 when United began offering daily non-stops to Paris. Being ever the hopeless (and impressionable) romantic, my fantasies took on new and markedly European flavors.

Adriana: That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere else in the world will always be a mystery to me.

Strolling the Champs-Élysées, the dawn of epiphanies was upon us. It was a sun-soaked spring day—or was it raining?—hell, it can hardly matter in such a place. At such a time. It was then and there that I decided I would never leave. I would stay in Paris forever. My life would never again be confused with anything resembling, well, my life. I would dream the rest of my days in color. What other way is there to dream in The City of Light?

Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates): The artist’s job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence.

My journal was out, resting on a petite table at a charming sidewalk café. Oddly enough, the page in front of me was not filled with stanzas from a brilliant poem any more than it contained even the first sentences of an attempt at a short story.

Gil: If you stay here and this becomes your present, then pretty soon you’ll start imaging that another time was really the golden time. Yeah, that’s what the present is, it’s a little unsatisfying because life is just a little unsatisfying.

As I looked around, I figured that a good way to fill the empty page would be to start scribbling reflections of the belle ville.

Adriana: I can never decide whether Paris is more beautiful by day or by night.

I was in the most magical city in the world. I was everywhere and I was nowhere.