Woody Allen paints a ‘Midnight in Paris’ masterpiece

The Eiffel Tower. The Moulin Rouge. Water lilies floating in the pond. “There’s no city like this in the world,” Owen Wilson’s “Midnight in Paris” character, Gil, said within the first five minutes of the latest Woody Allen film. And perhaps there isn’t.

Following the story of a young, engaged couple in Paris, the premise of “Midnight in Paris” seems like it would be an overwritten cliche. Gil (Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter working on his first novel. Inez (Rachel McAdams) is his fiance, who accompanies Gil to Paris. But while “Midnight in Paris” is a love story, it’s nothing like the romantic comedy “Wedding Crashers,” which also featured the budding developing romance between Wilson and McAdams’ characters.

“Midnight in Paris” has a more mature feel to it, and both Wilson and McAdams rise to the challenge. Wilson, known for his playful antics in “Wedding Crashers” and for voicing animated characters like Lightning McQueen from Pixar’s “Cars” franchise, captures the nostalgic dreamer, fascinated by the 1920s Paris culture and past legacy of renowned writers like Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Meanwhile, McAdams is the realist in this relationship, grounded in the present and future (she wants to live in Malibu, California, while her to-be-husband works in Hollywood). As one can imagine, this causes tension between the two, and Woody Allen’s beautifully crafted screenplay uses Wilson and McAdams’ relationship as a foil for Wilson’s musings of what it would be like to live in Paris during the roaring twenties — interacting with the legendary greats like Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill) and Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll).

Allen’s Oscar-winning screenplay lends itself to brilliance. Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald are charming — like Gatsby and Daisy from F. Scott’s novel “The Great Gatsby.” Mr. Dali is just as eccentric his surrealist paintings. And Hemingway is witty and wise, offering insight to a fellow writer.

In addition, “Midnight in Paris” shows off the gorgeous, romantic scenery of the French capital — the cobblestone streets, the bridges over tranquil waters, the rain. It’s the city of artists, writers and intellectuals. Stephane Wrembel’s music is enchanting. Each backdrop is a work of art. The irony is, Allen’s masterpiece shows off the artists we know and love through their parting gifts to the world. Perhaps like Fitzgerald and Hemingway’s books and Dali and Picasso’s paintings, Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” will also survive the test of time and remain as timeless as the classic memories it portrays.

Advertisements

From Harry to Haunted: Daniel Radcliffe stars in ‘The Woman in Black’

The trick to making a good horror film is to tease the audience — show the elongated shadows on the walls, play the creaks and moans in the woodwork. Fill in a creepy soundtrack; sudden jarring noises; a stupid but lovable and brave hero or heroine and the imagination will fill in the rest.

This is why director James Watkins’ new film “The Woman in Black” works. Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel, “The Woman in Black” follows single father Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe), a young, widowed lawyer who lost his wife (Sophie Stuckey) in childbirth four years ago. Kipps’ job sends him from London to Crythin Gifford to settle the paperwork of the late Dablow family of Eel Marsh House, when he discovers the secret behind the mysterious woman in black (Liz White).

Like any true Gryffindor, the Harry Potter star tries to overcomes his legacy as the boy-who-lived by confronting new ghosts head-on. Radcliffe looks vulnerable and sometimes child-like while wandering alone in the dark, dwarfed by the sinister crevices of the Eel Marsh House. Radcliffe’s big blue eyes and past tenure as the lovable Harry Potter adds to the audience’s sympathy when his character approaches a long darkened corridor or greets violent thumping noises behind closed doors.

But his tender scenes with his adorable, real-life godson, Misha Handley, who plays Radcliffe’s four-year-old son, Joseph Kipps, separates him from his wizard, silver screen counterpart. The scenes between Radcliffe and Handley are endearing and genuine, such as when Joseph presents Arthur with stick-figure drawings of the two (Radcliffe’s stick figure sports a prominent frown). While the film does play up the father/son relationship at times by reminding Radcliffe that he has a son to go home to and featuring the pale faces of other little girls and boys, the acting is believable, taking the film beyond the average cheap horror film and making it more comparable to Juan Antonio Bayona’s 2007 Spanish mystery thriller “The Orphanage” — a film which also features beautiful outdoor scenery, elaborate spooky interior house décor and children.

“The Woman in Black” shows how palpable death is among both the young and old — lingering in cobwebs, gravestones, shadows and the pale faces of the children and superstitious townspeople of Crythin Gifford. The new adaption of “The Woman in Black” is designed to keep you tense in your seats and your children close.