An Antidote to “Freedom Fries…”
One of the sweetest scenes in Woody Allen’s charming new film “Midnight in Paris,” involves the main character, played by Owen Wilson, walking the streets of the great city in the company of the stunning Marion Cotillard.
Wilson’s character, American screenwriter Gil Pender who struggles to write his novel, has been magically transported back in time to 1920’s Paris where he encounters a cast of celebrated writers and artists, including Hemingway, Picasso, Scott Fitzgerald and Matisse. Cotillard’s character, Adriana, has been keeping company with Picasso and is a stand-in for the painter’s many mistresses.
Gil, big surprising, is quite smitten with Adriana and can think of nothing better – OK, maybe one thing better – than walking the romantic streets of Paris at night with her. I identify.
Say what you will about France and the French, if you’ve been to Paris it is difficult not to conclude that it is the world’s most beautiful big city. Allen obviously believes so and his camera lavishes attention on the city that Hemingway called “a moveable feast.”
James Thurber was in Paris at about the time Allen’s movie is set and he captured the essence of the city pretty well when he said “…the whole of Paris is a vast university of Art, Literature and Music…it is worth anyone’s while to dally here for years. Paris is a seminar, a post-graduate course in Everything.”
Unlike most American cities, maybe with the exception of San Francisco and a few others, Paris is a city for walking. You can actually walk almost everywhere. From Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower is a good hike, but you can stop for a coffee or a beer on the way. (And, no the fake Eiffel in Las Vegas does not hold a candle to the real thing.) Along the way, you can walk by the river, through majestic parks and, if you are paying attention, you may just feel history under your feet.
I completely enjoyed Woody Allen’s light little romp back in time – Kathy Bates was superb portraying Gertrude Stein – but the movie is really a 90 minute love letter to Paris; the city of light and love; marvelous food and memory.
OK you say, but I don’t really like the French that much. Remember what James Baldwin said: “It is perfectly possible to be enamoured of Paris while remaining totally indifferent or even hostile to the French.”
See the movie and fall in love with the great city for the first time or the hundredth.