There have been many love letters to Paris written in film. Many, many—more than I can count.
Midnight in Paris is one of the very best. It centers around Gil (Owen Wilson), a writer who is vacationing with his fiancée, Inez (Rachel McAdams). One night, he’s wandering the streets of Paris, and a car pulls up. It’s a car that takes him to the 1920s, a golden period where such icons as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Picasso are all in close proximity.
Gil uses this to his great advantage, having Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) read his work and falling in love with Adriana (Marion Cotillard). As charming as this concept is, that’s not even the real point. Writer-director Woody Allen has injected a profound theme into the heart of this film, the idea that we’re never satisfied with the present.
That’s the magical heft of this seemingly featherweight film. We may romanticize the 20s, but people in that period thought of the 1880s as the best time, and those people looked further back and so on. The fact that he weaves that into such a charming love story is a minor miracle. Allen makes these sorts of pictures routinely, which is even more impressive.
I have always liked Paris, but this really kicked me into infatuation with it, a feeling that has not subsided. The film opens with a montage of the city, individual shots scored by a wistful tune, and it sets the blissful mood for the rest of the film.
I had to scour the Internet to find the one spot where the car picks Gil up. It wasn’t readily shown, but I found it. It should be a landmark.
Since I found that spot, I’ve never forgotten it. It is, like the film tied to it, unforgettable.
Midnight in Paris is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.