Anytime Woody Allen releases a new film, moviegoers naturally debate where it ranks on his filmography. Is it a triumphant return to form like last year’s MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, or a dud like 2009’s WHATEVER WORKS? Is it a vibrant echo of his early masterpieces, or a dispiriting reminder that he’s now 76 and his best years may be behind him? There’s rarely a middle ground: It’s either Good Woody or Bad Woody.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
In my own filmmaking education, the term ‘floating master’ was floated my way during one fine day of learning, uttered by an esteemed and respected editing teacher. I remember sitting in the classroom thinking … “Huh?” It sounded more Buddha-on-a-lily-pad than technical film coverage term. I believe she referenced the phrase – which is really ‘floating master shot’ in the same breath as the name Woody Allen, and as I watched MIDNIGHT IN PARIS this week, I harkened back to this particular method of working and its effects on narrative. MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, by the way, is a finely charming narrative indeed. And Woody Allen does, by gum, utilize the floating master over and over and over.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Woody Allen’s latest film starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, and Marion Cotillard, opened in the U.S. on Friday May 20th. The film, a romantic comedy set in Paris, is Allen’s forty-first feature film and his sixth film shot in Europe since 2005.
In MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, Gil (played by Owen Wilson) is on vacation in Paris with his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. From the outset, their polar opposite views on Paris are apparent: Gil, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, has a romantic view of the city while Inez, more comfortable with her California lifestyle, sees it as just another place in the world. After dinner with Inez’s overbearing friends Paul (Michael Sheen) and Carol (Nina Arianda), Gil calls it a night as they hit a club. Lost and a little drunk, Gil finds himself on a quiet street as the bells strike midnight. When a car pulls up filled with English speaking revelers, Gil is pulled into their party and circumstances that he never could have imagined.
This is Allen’s second film in Paris, the first “Everyone Says I Love You,” included Paris in only a portion of the film, but MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is Allen’s cinematic love note to the city.
From the film’s press kit, “Of course I’m partial to New York because I was born there and grew up there,” he says, “but if I didn’t live in New York, Paris is the place I would live.” This feeling echoes the sentiments of the film’s main character, Gil, who looks back with regret on an opportunity he had to move to Paris twenty years earlier but didn’t take. Allen himself had a similar opportunity during the filming of WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT in the 60’s. “It was an adventure that was too bold for me at the time. In retrospect I could have stayed, or at the very minimum taken an apartment and divided my time – but I didn’t and I regret that.”
Allen sat down with reporters to discuss MIDNIGHT IN PARIS at a press conference for the film on May 17th in New York.
Born in the wrong time: Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard in MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Ever since he got his start with the dub-tastic farce WHAT’S UP TIGER LILY in 1966, Woody Allen has written and directed a new film ever single year with only one exception – he took two years to make ANNIE HALL. With that kind of turnaround it goes without saying that not every single film is going to be a keeper. Still, the man is on a 45-year spree. He’s not only prolific, he’s a New York institution, only lately having traveled overseas to make his last several films. So when I say that MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, his latest annual cinematic exercise, is great fun but probably not a great film, it’s with the deepest respect.