Paris celebrated its 2,000th birthday on July 8, 1951 — making Friday birthday number 2,060 for the city Woody Allen first fell in love with during filming of “What’s New Pusssycat?” Allen was screenwriter and actor for the 1965 film.
He’s written and directed a new film titled “Midnight in Paris,” an opening night selection for this year’s Cannes Film Festival that was released May 20 in L.A. and New York. It’s playing now in movie theaters throughout the Valley.
I saw the film this week at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatre in Scottsdale. I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan, but wanted to see the film described as his “valentine to the City of Light.” Seems Allen considers Paris “equal to New York as the great city of the world.”
On that we agree. I traveled many times to Paris as a college senior studying in Germany, and loved every minute spent at eclectic sidewalk cafes and majestic art museums.
I’m eager to read David McCullough’s latest work, “The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.” Author Stacy Schiff, who reviewed the work for The New York Times, says it “explores the intellectual legacy that France settled on its 19th-century visitors” — long before the era when “freedom fries” replaced French fries on some American menus.
My children were first introduced to Paris via the books of Ludwig Bemelmans, author and illustrator of several “Madeline” titles, which follow the adventures of 12 French school girls. Bemelmans was born in 1898 in the Austrian Triol, but came to America in 1914. He lived in New York until his death in 1963. The “Madeline” movie released in 1998 could have been titled “Mischief in Paris.”
“Midnight in Paris” stars Kathy Bates, Adrien Brody, Carla Bruni (first lady of France), Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen and Owen Wilson.
It’s a romantic comedy tackling “the illusion people have that a life different from theirs would be much better.”
As a Denver native and Arizona transplant who sometimes longs to live in New York or San Francisco, I need reminding more than most that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. There’s just more of it.
The film opens as a young couple arrives in Paris. The woman has marriage and moving to Malibu on her mind. The man, a successful Hollywood screenwriter, is working on a novel and dreams of living in Paris — where he loves to walk in the rain.
For several nights, the writer strolls alone to a special spot where he’s transported at the stroke of midnight to 1920s Paris, encountering all sorts of writers and artists, including Gertrude Stein, Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
Period music, much of it by Cole Porter, plays throughout most of the film – which also features plenty of famous sites, from the Eiffel Tower to Moulin Rouge. It’s a movie best appreciated by those who love the literary — though artists, history buffs and philosophical souls will also “get it” more than most.
Now I have a real dilemma on my hands. New York or Paris?
Coming up: Tips for introducing children to opera, Valley arts organizations find new homes, Musings on “The Tree of Life,” Ode to hairspray
Update: Click here to learn about the PBS American Masters presentation of “Woody Allen: A Documentary” written and directed by Robert Weide. 11/21/11