Friday, 7 October 2011

The critics' claws not as sharp for Woody this time

Last Friday Woody Allen's new film Midnight in Paris got its UK release and has opened to a kinder reception than most of his recent output. The 85 year old actor/writer/director has now made it to his 41st feature film with his 42nd in post-production already. After such an extensive and influential career it seems to me most critics take Woody Allen for granted as an artist, perhaps this is due to him being a hard and fast working man who manages to get a film out each year. Critics are perhaps overindulged with Woody Allen material and therefore don't fully appreciate his work, perhaps things would be different if he were to take a few years hiatus? As I see it this is far from likely as the man who gave us Annie Hall, Manhattan, Hannah & Her Sisters, Crimes & Misdemeanours, and more recently Match Point and Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona is yet to run out of steam and still has plenty to say about human behaviour and relationships.

I was happy to see Midnight In Paris met with adoration instead of a misplaced negativity, the press has already labeled it a "return to form" for Woody Allen which is a ridiculously over used statement that most of his output in the last decade has been tarnished with and something that irritates me greatly, how can each new film be a "return to form"? However. with Midnight in Paris something seems different this time and as much as I always look forward to a new film from Woody Allen I'm really excited about this one. Perhaps my excitement stems from the lighthearted fantasy element that is key to the story, the type of fantasy seen in The Purple Rose of Cairo which is probably my favourite of Allen's work.

The story of Midnight carries many themes accustomed to Woody Allen's writing; the frustrated writer fighting to find meaning through their work, the unfulfilled relationship and the longing for 'more'. The story follows Hollywood writer Gil (Owen Wilson) in Paris with his fiance Inez's (Rachel McAdams) family, Gil is doubting his looming marriage and questioning his integrity as a writer, feeling that the modern world holds no inspiration for him, the inspiration that great writers of the past had. As he walks the streets of Paris in the moonlight he meets a mysterious women (Marion Cotillard) who introduces him to figures of the past such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. In this time traveling fantasy perhaps Gil will discover that even the greatest of writers have shared his feelings and will overcome himself to create something brilliant.

Perhaps this story has touched critics because of how personal it is for Woody Allen. Now 85 years old he possibly feels at odds with the modern world and like his character Gil looks back to a 'golden age', a celebrated time that he feels more connected to. If this is how he feels then it's ironic how he's crafted the most successful film of his career and one that audiences and critics have widely connected to and enjoyed. So well done Woody and keep 'em coming!

Midnight in Paris is in cinemas now.

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