Archive for October, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011)

“Midnight in Paris”


empty deepness

Maybe because it is one of the most recent narrative creating devices, cinema is probably the most powerful we’ve ever invented. Certainly the one that still flashes in people’s minds more easily these days. We know storytelling is probably as old as language, and language in our very peculiar human sense is as old as Humans themselves. Some filmmakers, out of the blue, constantly remind us how still little explored are the narrative power of cinema as a medium. Méliès, Welles, Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Kar Wai, Park, Tarkovsky and a handful of others, each gave us invaluable break-throughs, new ways to tell things, new forms to feel. But few have questions the limits of narrative as the structured soul of a film as Woody. Many accuse him of repeating himself. Always the same pseudo-intellectual characters, babbling empty people with trifle lives, nothing serious to say or do. Broken marriages, adultery, and so on. That’s all true because those are the superficial elements on which Woody builds most of his films. But in everyone of them, he tries something he hasn’t tried before, sometimes repeating some other filmmakers experiences, other times trying stuff no one has ever tried before. He misses some chances, he hits a few more, but i know he always tries. And for that reason i’ll always want to see his films, made or to be made.

Here he makes something that superficially resembles his celebrated Purple Rose of Cairo. But this is quite a different breed. What he tries is a highly complex experience in parallel inter-related worlds. Parallel realities where where (or when!) what happens in one, affects the other. The film begins in a recognizable present, establishes itself on other fantasy level, and finds its resolution in yet another deeper layer. Each layer is nested on the previous one, all of them rooted in Paris, and its clichés for each moment. Same space, same character, different dynamics of it. A solid triangular structure, where the same typical Allen elements find a new place to breath.

In the way we find Marion Cotillard, whom we have seen in Inception, a similarly structured film about finding realities buried deep in the previous level, there mapped into dreams, and who knows, maybe here this is all mapped into the dreams of Owen’s character. Inception also rooted the whole thing in Paris, one of the most filmed places ever, and one of those whose clichés are more built by films. And there also, Marion was the invented subconscious lover, who’s very existence as a character was questionable.

By now, its a perfectly assumed and natural thing that every film is in one way or another a blink of eye to the audiences via the reference to other films or to cinema in general. The french new wavers introduced that in film vocabulary as a common practice, so natural that you almost can’t live without it today. Woody starts here with a character who Is a film writer trying to move into literature fiction. He goes to Paris, he gives us an initial montage of Paris and its recognizable places, less vigorous but much in the way of the initial sequence in Manhattan. And he places his layers, his “golden ages” in similarly cinematic moments in time. The intellectuals and artist celebrities are there more than anything to color the human landscape, although the joke on Buñuel’s film is great.

If you need to find another self-referential “meaning” to all this, than i suppose woody himself observes his new-york high empty class of intellectuals and sees it as he puts Sheen’s character here: full of words but ultimately empty, boring, and utterly uninteresting. It’s as if he had lived all his life trying to move up (or down) to his personal golden age, he the nostalgic for the new orleans big bands (which he uses in the initial soundtrack). You can go there and explore it like that. I like to contemplate the structure.

Among the people i went to see this with, there was some discussion about why the main poster would reference Van Gogh without him even showing up in the film. I would say, maybe in a superficial way, that Van Gogh had similar aspirations to most of his paintings than Woody had for this film: painting what he saw, and layering on it a distorted vision of it, many times tormented, but always rooted in some inexistent world. In doing so he gave us transcendental figurative art (in his case fueled by absinthe and his own madness). Colors were Vincent’s narrative tools. Narrative structure itself is Woody’s very fabric for his films.

My opinion: 3/5 another tile in woody’s mosaic. What’s next?

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