Woody Allen's latest

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David Loftus
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Woody Allen's latest

Postby David Loftus » Sat Jun 25, 2011 10:30 pm

This isn't a review of "Midnight in Paris," -- if you want to know what the movie's about or who all's in it, read one of the established reviewers' pieces. I just wanted to put my thoughts down someplace after watching the thing this afternoon, and this seemed as good a place as any.

I read the first half a dozen reviews linked from the "External Reviews" page on the IMDb, and nobody else seems to have felt quite the way I did about this. Ebert thought it was wonderful. Others say it's Allen's best in years, or at worst, it's charming and fluffy and lightweight. I went because lots of other Portlanders had spoken warmly of the movie, and I'd heard the professional buzz was good.

I liked some stuff about it -- the photography, sound, colors, acting mostly, and some of the inside literary jokes just made for people like me -- but to some extent the movie gave me the creeps, too. I don't think Woody Allen understands ordinary human beings anymore. And though I appreciated his attempt to move in a somewhat unfamiliar direction for him -- a bit of science fiction/fantasy element to the plotting -- I don't believe he thought it through sufficiently. I liked "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" a bit more, though I thought it was far from his best work of the 1980s and 1970s), but it was better than "Scoop," which was often a bit embarrassing. (Because I've found his recent films weak and/or uneven, I haven't gone out of my way to see them all, but I did see "Deconstructing Harry," "Mighty Aphrodite," "Everyone Says I Love You." I think the last Woody Allen films I thought were fairly solid were "Husbands and Wives" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors.")

It's hard to separate what one knows or at least has read about Woody Allen the man from each of his projects, especially when the lead character, played here by Owen Wilson, so obviously plays a "Woody Allen type character" (and does it rather well, I must say). There's no particular reason the protagonist of "Midnight in Paris" should have Allen's tics and obsessions, really, let alone his verbal style, so I have to think either Wilson made that acting choice, or Allen specifically made him do it. Neither does the two of them any credit, it seems to me. Haven't we had ENOUGH films where guys handsomer than Woody Allen pretend to be Woody Allen? Do I need to go to Woody Allen movies to learn more about Woody Allen, much of which I feel I already know, or wouldn't it be nicer to learn more about other people, about life itself, in general?

Allen's characters are never anything like ordinary people anymore. They're upper middle class at worst, literary and cultural jet setters at best. They're artists or writers or celebrities of some other stripe, or the people around them who don't adequately understand and appreciate them. And the Woody Allen character almost inevitably has a beautiful woman or two, sometimes a flock (there are at least three in this movie) that are only too happy to help him out, perhaps even strongly attracted. Doesn't this guy ever really do anything on his own, or team up with another guy?

I get the impression the writer of this story doesn't really like people all that much. That he likes having control of a situation, or at least possessing more information than the people around him, even if he doesn't make good use of it. I'm thinking, for instance, of Owen Wilson's character knowing a lot about the lives and work of the people he meets in the 1920s, even feeding them their own ideas repeatedly, so that halfway knowing folks in the audience can laugh. I laughed, sometimes pretty much alone in the sparsely-attended theater I was in, but I still think it's a cheap trick. Or, on the other hand, bringing the knowledge he acquires in the 1920s back to 2010 to get the better of the humorless pedantic played by Michael Sheen (so fabulous as Tony Blair in "The Queen" and David Frost in "Frost/Nixon"), whose role as a uni-dimensional irritant had long before paled for me. I'm not sure I laughed at his comeuppance over the Picasso painting.

As for the time travel element, he certainly had no need to explain it, but I don't feel he thought it through much. The complication of the modern-day detective trying to figure out where he was disappearing every night by following him could have been interesting, but he elided right over it and disposed of the character in a quick joke. If the Owen Wilson character managed to find Adrianna's published diary in a Paris street book stall (a VERY long shot), then he should have seen what was coming, simply by a glance at the publication date of the book. And, as one reviewer did catch, it set up a nice expectation for him to hand Zelda Fitzgerald a Valium, but then she promptly disappears from the movie.

I don't want to say he should quit making movies. But I wish he'd put a little more time into each one, perhaps.
War is, at first, the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn't any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone's being worse off. - Karl Kraus

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Re: Woody Allen's latest

Postby FrankChurch » Sun Jun 26, 2011 1:34 pm

Did you like Match Point?

Woody Allen was never a humanist. He tends to think the lot of us are crazy.

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Re: Woody Allen's latest

Postby cynic » Sun Jun 26, 2011 3:16 pm

as always, an interesting viewpoint. thank you.

i wonder if, as we age, we are more apt to affect our more prevalent voluminous past, than the fleeting "now" (and its ever decreasing relative effect).
even watching "annie" i was laughing during the "setups", and whispering the punchlines (on "first" viewing, all but spoiling it for my partner) i expected.
i wonder if my own (our?) identification with, and the familiarity (if not mild contempt) of that view, had not spoiled me a bit ?
i too have enjoyed less what i have come to anticipate in Allen's work.

i recall it said; that a great artist has a story, a genius has two.

i won't google it yet...does that ring any bells? anyone?

FrankChurch wrote: Woody Allen was never a humanist. He tends to think the lot of us are crazy.
that's part of humanism lil' buddy
follow your bliss,mike

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Re: Woody Allen's latest

Postby FrankChurch » Thu Jul 07, 2011 1:10 pm

Woody has a hit on his hand. Sure, he has sold around 33 million worth of tickets, but his films usually tank. This is a good sign.

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