Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris, is about – what else? Midnight in Paris! Inspired by her recent run-in with the director himself, Tory reminisces about how living the romantic, literary dream also means taking stock of the realities of life in the city of lights… -Geneviève
Film still from Midnight in Paris
“I don’t deliberately make a film a year, but that seems to be what happens,” Woody Allen told me when I caught up with him at an event last December in New York. “Eventually I will stop working or keel over, but so far everything’s been going along fine.”
At the time, he had just wrapped Midnight in Paris, which headlined this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May (and is now in theaters in France and the United States). I had been anticipating this film ever since my friend caught a glimpse of the crew shooting on one of the quais last fall, and I was curious to see how Allen would interpret (or misinterpret) Paris.
In short, Midnight in Paris follows Owen Wilson’s character, an earnest American novelist, as he is unexpectedly lured into a magical world, populated by the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Dalí, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, T. S. Eliot, and the list goes on. Late in the film, a spin through the Belle Epoque has Wilson rubbing shoulders with Gauguin, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Like many of Allen’s films, the whole thing was pretty far-fetched, but I must admit, it totally captivated me in the watching. More importantly, it made me laugh at myself—if only because it played with so many of the stereotypes that lure starry-eyed Americans (myself included) to Paris. Owen Wilson’s literary-inspired naïveté struck a serious chord with me. It’s no coincidence that when I first arrived, I named my blog A Moveable Beast in honor of the bohemian, writer-ly existence I planned to cultivate.
Film still from Midnight in Paris
But for all ex-pats who choose to live in Paris for romantic reasons, there eventually comes a reckoning. Amidst the magic, there are contemporary realities that ultimately chip away at one’s starry-eyed view of the city. As the film ended, I found myself craving a sequel where Owen Wilson stops cavorting with Gertrude Stein and actually tries to set up an SFR account, square away his carte de séjour, and find a taxi at 3am on a Saturday in the Marais. Alas, such activities don’t make for a very compelling film.
For most ex-pats (Owen Wilson and myself included) the challenge of life in Paris is to balance the romance with the reality, to let yourself get carried away on occasion, but also stay grounded in the here and now. It’s quite possible to strike a satisfying equilibrium: you can pour over A Moveable Feast and get your apartment wired with Wifi, get lost in the photos of Robert Doisneau and lug lampshades home from BHV. Such activities are not mutually exclusive.
As Allen demonstrates in his film, there is the Paris we dream of, the Paris that exists, and the all-important intersection of the two. I consider myself to have one foot in reality and one foot in a completely absurd fantasy world—and that’s just how I like it.
- Watch the trailer for Midnight in Paris on Pret à Voyager
- Making Magique has some adorable Midnight in Paris-esque shots
- Tory chronicled her comical experiences in Paris on her blog, A Moveable Beast