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mjzee

Woody Allen's "Midnight In Paris"

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We saw "Midnight In Paris" over the weekend. I'm still thinking about it - very, very fine movie. The acting is spot on - the characters may be standard Allen characters (the struggling writer, the shrewish fiancee, the pedantic scholar), but the actors brought them to life. Owen Wilson and Rachel MacAdams were very fine, and Adrian Brody almost steals the movie with his one little spot. The plot was lyrical, wonderful.

The movie theater was packed. I don't remember the last time I saw a movie in a full movie house. That also added to the enjoyment.

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Sounds like a cue for all the film critics to again state that he is "back on form", then, when he makes another film that isn't quite perfect, to complain that "he hasn't made a decent film in years".

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

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Talk about miss the point. Purple Rose doesn't "criticise" Hollywood escapism, it celebrates it. The sadness in the film comes from having to return to real life once the pleasure of the film is over.

And why would a film-maker who venerates the artifice of old movies pursue realism in his own work?

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

Your friend seems like someone who thinks too much. But what do I know? :)

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Purple Rose doesn't "criticise" Hollywood escapism, it celebrates it.

Not sure if escapism is something to be "celebrated"...a little goes a long way as far as improving one's actual condition, if that is in fact from what one is trying to escape.

I don't know much, but I do know that.

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Haven't seen Midnight in Paris yet, but it'd be nice if Woody has used Peter Stampfel & co.'s version of "Midnight in Paris" (from Have Moicy) in his soundtrack. Not much chance of that, so I'll just have to play it in my head when I see the film.

Edited by paul secor

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

Your friend seems like someone who thinks too much. But what do I know? :)

Dave is not only a friend but also one of best film critics around:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Kehr

Not that that automatically makes him right about Woody Allen or anything else, but he has been a "student of the game" for some 40 years.

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Is it escapism to make a career out of observing and critiquing escapism, or is it making lemonade out of lemons?

Or is it maybe planting lemon trees, secure in the knowledge that there will always be a market one way or the other?

Lemons - Bob or Jack? Take the test now!

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

Your friend seems like someone who thinks too much. But what do I know? :)

Dave is not only a friend but also one of best film critics around:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Kehr

Not that that automatically makes him right about Woody Allen or anything else, but he has been a "student of the game" for some 40 years.

No offense intended. I'll have to check out some of his writing.

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

Your friend seems like someone who thinks too much. But what do I know? :)

Dave is not only a friend but also one of best film critics around:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Kehr

Not that that automatically makes him right about Woody Allen or anything else, but he has been a "student of the game" for some 40 years.

No offense intended. I'll have to check out some of his writing.

None taken. Just wanted to make it clear that Dave wasn't only a friend.

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To borrow something that my friend Dave Kehr said about the somewhat similar "The Purple Rose of Cairo" back in 1985:

"Woody Allen's naive notions of art -- he thinks it means a story with a moral -- might have some primitive charm if he didn't put them forward so self-importantly. And the sophomoric illusion-versus-reality games he plays in this film might be easier to take if he had the directorial skills necessary to establish a meaningful demarcation between the two worlds: as it stands, his 'reality' is just as flimsily conceived, and populated by characters every bit as flat, as the romantic illusion the film is meant to criticize."

OTOH, the theater where I saw "Midnight In Paris" was full of people who seemed to be enjoying the heck out of the movie, so what do I know?

Your friend seems like someone who thinks too much. But what do I know? :)

Dave is not only a friend but also one of best film critics around:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Kehr

Not that that automatically makes him right about Woody Allen or anything else, but he has been a "student of the game" for some 40 years.

No offense intended. I'll have to check out some of his writing.

None taken. Just wanted to make it clear that Dave wasn't only a friend.

Did some quick reading online. I'll have to get When Movies Mattered. Anyone who chose Hitchcock's Family Plot as his favorite film of 1976 just might be my kind of critic.

edited for spelling.

Edited by paul secor

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Purple Rose doesn't "criticise" Hollywood escapism, it celebrates it.

Not sure if escapism is something to be "celebrated"...a little goes a long way as far as improving one's actual condition, if that is in fact from what one is trying to escape.

I don't know much, but I do know that.

Have you seen the film? It's more or less making that point; that escapist entertainment is a wonderful thing, but ultimately you have to accept reality. The romantic Hollywood movies of the Thirties are pastiched and satirised but very affectionately; they certainly aren't "criticised" as Dave Kehr suggests.

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Purple Rose doesn't "criticise" Hollywood escapism, it celebrates it.

Not sure if escapism is something to be "celebrated"...a little goes a long way as far as improving one's actual condition, if that is in fact from what one is trying to escape.

I don't know much, but I do know that.

Have you seen the film? It's more or less making that point; that escapist entertainment is a wonderful thing, but ultimately you have to accept reality. The romantic Hollywood movies of the Thirties are pastiched and satirised but very affectionately; they certainly aren't "criticised" as Dave Kehr suggests.

Haven't seen the film itself in years, but this plot summary doesn't seem to match up that well with your account of its point:

"In New Jersey during the Great Depression, Cecilia (Mia Farrow) is a clumsy waitress who goes to the movies to escape her bleak life and loveless marriage to Monk (Danny Aiello), whom she has attempted to leave on numerous occasions.

"The latest film Cecilia sees is a fictitious RKO Radio Pictures film, The Purple Rose of Cairo. It is the story of a rich Manhattan playwright (Edward Herrmann) who goes on an exotic vacation to Egypt with companions Jason (John Wood) and Rita (Deborah Rush). While in Egypt, the three meet archaeologist Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels). Tom is brought back for a "madcap Manhattan weekend" where he falls head-over-heels for Kitty Haynes (Karen Akers), a chanteuse at the Copacabana.

When Cecilia sees the film several times, Tom breaks the fourth wall, emerging from the black-and-white into the colorful real world on the other side of the cinema's screen. The producer of the film learns that Tom has left the film, and he flies cross-country to New Jersey with actor Gil Shepherd (also played by Jeff Daniels). This sets up an unusual love triangle involving Tom, Gil and Cecilia. The downbeat ending has Cecilia give up the chance to return with Tom to his world, choosing to stay with Gil and have a 'real' life.

"Gil then abandons her and is seen quietly racked with guilt on his flight back to Hollywood. Having been left without a lover, job or home (but most likely to return to Monk), Cecilia ends up watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Cheek-to-Cheek" in the film Top Hat, forgetting her dire situation and losing herself in the film."

In particular, the real-life situation Cecelia returns to is unremittingly "dire," and she loses herself in Fred and Ginger a la a heroin addict. These are, to be sure, the downbeat, rather finger-wagging alternatives that Allen choose to give us here, not IMO a particularly plausible account of how American popular entertainment of that era (and many others) actually functioned/functions in the lives of its audiences.

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Purple Rose doesn't "criticise" Hollywood escapism, it celebrates it.

Not sure if escapism is something to be "celebrated"...a little goes a long way as far as improving one's actual condition, if that is in fact from what one is trying to escape.

I don't know much, but I do know that.

Have you seen the film? It's more or less making that point; that escapist entertainment is a wonderful thing, but ultimately you have to accept reality. The romantic Hollywood movies of the Thirties are pastiched and satirised but very affectionately; they certainly aren't "criticised" as Dave Kehr suggests.

I've seen it several times, but frankly, it's escapism about escapism and as such is something I "stream" rather than "download and "burn".

Seems like the right thing to do, no?

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Personally, I don't see much point in over-earnest analysis of Woody Allen films at this stage of his career. He's been repeating himself for years. Still, I go see his movies as they appear, because I enjoy their warm, relaxed charm and light humor. So I saw "Midnight in Paris" but was disappointed, even though I don't demand much of them. I didn't get the impression that he or the actors made much of an effort with it. This time the whole thing felt sort of phoned in. Oh well. You can't win 'em all. I'll still go see his next one.

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Haven't seen the film itself in years, but this plot summary doesn't seem to match up that well with your account of its point:

"Gil then abandons her and is seen quietly racked with guilt on his flight back to Hollywood. Having been left without a lover, job or home (but most likely to return to Monk), Cecilia ends up watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Cheek-to-Cheek" in the film Top Hat, forgetting her dire situation and losing herself in the film."

In particular, the real-life situation Cecelia returns to is unremittingly "dire," and she loses herself in Fred and Ginger a la a heroin addict. These are, to be sure, the downbeat, rather finger-wagging alternatives that Allen choose to give us here, not IMO a particularly plausible account of how American popular entertainment of that era (and many others) actually functioned/functions in the lives of its audiences.

(Apologies for cutting the summary part of your post.)

The reason the plot summary doesn't match up with my account of its point is that it doesn't match up with the film. Gil is shown on the plane just sitting there, expressing no obvious emotion, let alone guilt; it's clear now that he coldly played a part for Cecelia so he could solve his career problem and move on. Cecelia's reaction to the Astaire film is, IIRC, not as enraptured as it was previously; she's in tears, not "losing herself in the film" at all: she's learnt a painful lesson. It's downbeat, sure, but not finger-wagging IMO.

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Haven't seen the film itself in years, but this plot summary doesn't seem to match up that well with your account of its point:

"Gil then abandons her and is seen quietly racked with guilt on his flight back to Hollywood. Having been left without a lover, job or home (but most likely to return to Monk), Cecilia ends up watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing to "Cheek-to-Cheek" in the film Top Hat, forgetting her dire situation and losing herself in the film."

In particular, the real-life situation Cecelia returns to is unremittingly "dire," and she loses herself in Fred and Ginger a la a heroin addict. These are, to be sure, the downbeat, rather finger-wagging alternatives that Allen choose to give us here, not IMO a particularly plausible account of how American popular entertainment of that era (and many others) actually functioned/functions in the lives of its audiences.

(Apologies for cutting the summary part of your post.)

The reason the plot summary doesn't match up with my account of its point is that it doesn't match up with the film. Gil is shown on the plane just sitting there, expressing no obvious emotion, let alone guilt; it's clear now that he coldly played a part for Cecelia so he could solve his career problem and move on. Cecelia's reaction to the Astaire film is, IIRC, not as enraptured as it was previously; she's in tears, not "losing herself in the film" at all: she's learnt a painful lesson. It's downbeat, sure, but not finger-wagging IMO.

I'll have to watch the movie again. As I said, it's been years.

Actually, now that I think of it, I did start watching once on TV within the last year or so, and the depiction in the early scenes of Farrow's character, to quote Kehr again, "fragile, waiflike, terminally pathetic" was more than I could take, "the embodiment of every obnoxious Hollywood cliche of the 'little person.'"

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I haven't seen a Woody Allen film for years but I remember enjoying his "funny ones". If I recall, he has a pretty depressed (or realistic depending on your viewpoint)view of life....that our future is death. So as not to dwell on that, life, to him, is a series of diversions. I don't think he celebrates this escapism so much as feels it's a necessity to live. Many may think of their interests or hobbies or work as their life rather than being, according to Allen's philosophy, just diversions from what we all will ultimately face. Movies and movie stars were big during the Great Depression as a form of escapism. When the economy is doing poorly I think the movie theater business grows. Romance novels and soap operas (until recently) were considered escapism from a drab life. Maybe even vacations. I think that's a constant (and wearisome) theme throughout his movies.

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TedR: Well put.

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"the embodiment of every obnoxious Hollywood cliche of the 'little person.'"

You know, i was surfing through the season premiere of that Next Food Network Star show the other night, and this Hispanic (Mexican, to be specific, I think) chick wanted to do French food. Well, this network chick, Susie Fogelson I think it was, stops her and tells her, "You've got things to tell that only you can tell, focus on that instead", or words very close to that. In other words, I don't care how good your food is (that was never commented on), we ain't putting no Hispanic chick on tv unless they're talking about their "native cuisine". I nearly, no, did, start screaming at the tv HEY SUSIE - MAYBE WHAT SHE REALLY IS IS A MEXICAN CHICK WHO DIGS FRENCH FOOD, YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? WHO ARE YOU TO TELL OTEHR PEOPLE WHAT THEY SHOULD OR SHOULDN'T BE. WHO GAVE YOU THAT RIGHT? I think I kinda scared LTB...

I mean, what if somebody told Susie Fogelson, hey, we know you want to produce general audience tv, but there's so many stories only you can tell, focus on those instead? Maybe they did, and this is the result. Now she's in a position to look for people who will cheerfully be what she wants them to be so she can stay where she is. If you want to be a Mexican chick talking about Mexican food, hey, here's a show, let me pimp you out on that, I know how to do that. If you want to be a Mexican chick talking about French food, forget about it, there's no place in her world for that, and she's got the power to make it so and keep it so.

Once they become bigger than what their "place" is, it is the nature of the fearful small to use thier power to limit what others think of themselves to keep them in their place so they can stay in theirs. It is one of the ugliest traits of humanity, and it is damn near universal.

It is also in the nature of the unfearful small to want to reach wherever and whatever interests them. That is one of the most beautiful traits of humanity and it too is damn near universal.

In the ensuing fight, you always gotta pull for the little guy, but then you really gotta watch out for him if/when he whens.

Nothing kills triumph quicker than success.

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I saw it Monday and enjoyed it. The Hemingway character is great! I can't say the film really affected me, but it was a pleasant way to pass a couple hours on a hot summer night.

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Did some quick reading online. I'll have to get When Movies Mattered. Anyone who chose Hitchcock's Family Plot as his favorite film of 1976 just might be my kind of critic.

edited for spelling.

Well, certainly not my kind of critic. "Family Plot" is a decidedly minor Hitchcock work. "Network" was by far the best film that year, a very prescient work, and Sidney Lumet should have been chosen Best Director, an award he never received. The Oscar mavens however chose "Rocky" (ugh!).

Back to Woody. I've tried twice to see "Midnight in Paris" this past week and both times, our local theater was sold out.

Edited by MartyJazz

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I really enjoyed the movie. It was charming, funny, sentimental in a good way.

And I agree with MartyJazz on Rocky, really not my thing.

Guy

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