‘Midnight in Paris’: Woody Allen reinvents himself again

Woody Allen’s latest directorial effort tells the tale of a family traveling to the Paris, France for business. The party includes a young engaged couple (Owen Wilson plays the boyfriend) forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better. It’s a romantic comedy, a genre Woody Allen helped mold with “Annie Hall” (1977). There isn’t a romantic comedy that doesn’t take from Allen’s earlier work.

In typical Woody Allen fashion, there is a great ensemble cast that includes Oscar Nominee Owen Wilson (“Royal Tennebaums”–Best screenplay) and Oscar Winners Kathy Bates (“Misery”), Adrianne Brody (“The Pianist”) and Rachel McAdams. The film’s strength is the screenplay. The movie is very similar to Allen’s movie “Purple Rose of Cairo” (an audience member gets stuck in the movie). Well, it’s similar in concept.

In this movie, Owen Wilson’s character is taken back to 1920s France whenever he walks the street after midnight. I’m never one to spoil a plot, but this time will be the exception. Owen Wilson is a writer and as he journeys into the night, he meets his favorite writers, poets, painters and artists (from Picasso to Fitzgerald and Monet to Hemingway). The movie never separates itself into fantasy-land. That is rare and an easy out that filmmakers usually take. Allen maintains a cohesive story whether in fantasy or reality.

What I love is that  Woody Allen went back to his old style with the camera work (deep focus, rich textured lighting, long shots), but made it accessible to today’s audience. I do warn you, this film is not for everyone. It’s a great film for people who love cinema as an art, not a product. I wouldn’t call it an art-house film, but it requires a little more from the audience then just munching on popcorn.

On the surface the film could be perceived as snobby, but it’s all about taste and that is what the subtext of the film says. What is art? Where is art headed? Where has art been? The film could be taken more philosophically then it’s meant to be (I’m sure that in some L.A. coffeehouse, two film snobs are arguing about it), but for our purposes, I’d say take it as Owen Wilson in a non-“Wedding Crashers” or “You, Me and Dupree” role and for you Woody Allen fans (or not), check out his cinematic innovations with story (NOT FX).

In today’s age of 3-D, IMAX, digital 3-D, Disney 3-D and any other reason to detract from the story we can’t forget small films like this. Even though it won’t hit Kukui Grove Cinema, check it out if you visit Honolulu or put it on your “to see” DVD list.

At the rate films are released now, it won’t be long before you can find this one in Blockbuster or on Netflix.

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