Another Country

‘Midnight in Paris’ & ‘The Princess of Montpensier’

I should have been the ideal viewer for Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, if its enthusiasts are right in calling it a “romantic love letter to Paris” (David Denby). I had been writing this love letter in my heart years before I visited the City of Light. When I was a kid, it was the seventeenth-century Paris of The Three Musketeers that I dreamed of. Later the nineteenth-century comédie humaine of Balzac and the belle époque of Apollinaire and Proust so occupied my fantasy life that when I actually arrived in the city I resented the traffic and the cell phones. Midnight’s hero, a young Hollywood scriptwriter named Gil Pender, besotted with the movable feast days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, experiences exactly what I longed for: a time-trip back to the 1920s where he meets Hem, Scotty, Pablo, Gertrude, the whole crew. Shuttling back and forth between his nocturnal bliss and the daylight capitol where he must put up with a kvetching fiancée and her dreary, reactionary parents, Gil must decide whether it’s really worthwhile to hang on to the present when the past holds all the magic he needs, plus good advice about writing from Gertrude Stein and romantic opportunities with the former mistress of Modigliani.

Yes, Gil’s fantasy was my fantasy, yet the movie...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.