I like most people who have seen Woody Allen films think that he is a comic genius, that he is able to write stories about true lives. Lives that we could embody. The protagonist, whom we almost always like, because he is imperfect and belittles himself, (partly because that is what Woody does all the time) and of course has a sense of humor, and that is what we want from our lives too, isn’t it? Well, I do anyway… I am therefore exactly like everyone in the population, but I also feel like I am a part of a Woody Allen film. There are subtle differences between a Woody Allen film and MY Woody Allen film, for starters, unlike most of Allen’s films, my life actually seems to be cast with superstars who shine brighter than the said, sorry, imperfect protagonist. My story is really a lot more interesting when you ignore me. So that’s the self-critical, humble bit of me speaking… but it has been cleverly guised in a character of a narcissist who has the nerve to think that the world revolves around him and so should a movie. But I ask you… reader, why not? It’s the one fantasy I have, let me live it!
In each of Woody’s films, be it Annie Hall, Manhattan, Midnight in Paris… hell even Match Point (which btw is not a film where we love the protagonist, more likely we hate him) but, ANYWAY… let’s say, in most of Woody’s films because I was walking a very treacherous line there having not seen every Woody Allen movie, after all… Deconstructing Harry was a bit too crazy for my liking and I stopped halfway. But in most of his movies, the protagonist is a single, humble, bumbling & creative guy who is struggling to get to grips with the world. And this guy, is traditionally looking to get through a phase in his life that he may or may not later regret. We saw him regret losing the love of his life because he started chasing a pseudo-intellectual in Manhattan… and we saw him lose his love in Annie Hall because she realized how hollow his personality was. Luckily for me, I connect more with the cities and the fantasies than the
romances. When I watched Manhattan, it was for the noir themed dim lighting, the beautiful cityscapes and the sight of Allen sitting on a bench looking at the Manhattan bridge, an iconic scene, filmed far too many times, but there is something about the music, the conversation that makes that one scene stand out for me.
In Midnight in Paris, the first 3 minutes of the movie is nothing but scenes from everyday life in the Parisian streets. It’s beautiful. Shot at different times in the day, the shots romanticize Paris by not focusing on a single person or building… even the Eiffel Tower is just a filler in shots, it is used sparingly, yet the focus is on the life in Paris. And Paris in the rain. I have been told that walking in Paris is the best way to take in the sights. And Allen has captured that somehow in his film. And he has filled the movie with conversations that you LOVE.
In Annie Hall it was the New York Jewish comedian who saw everyone as anti-Semitic. The film is packed with conversations. I dare you to find a 10 second sequence in the film where there is no dialogue. This is great for me, because when I get started, I talk for ages. And its easy to have conversations in your head. Trust me, I do it all the time and all I need is to liven up my imagination to get things going. The film frequently breaks the fourth wall and uses other means like cartoons and even anthromorphic personifications to tell its story. What I liked was again, the culture, the lifestyle… the movie creates the illusion of a New York life that us filled with visits to the MET, drama clubs and a life where it appears Woody fits in, but he actually does not.
In Midnight in Paris, if there is a central theme apart from the obvious… ‘Paris is the greatest city in the world!’, it would have to be that people live in the past. Everyone has a golden age, a time they thought was the best, a time in the past that they would like to live in.
you could be in1920’s Paris where you run into TS Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and Salvador Dali just out of accident as compared to the mad rush of a 2010 Paris where you are, as it happens engaged to be married to Rachel McAdams rather unflattering portrayal of an all american girl who says she could not live outside the United States. And so you struggle to find a connection in the important things in life with her. Seriously… live in the states rather than Paris? And she laughs at the idea of 1920’s Paris and the imagination of Owen Wilson’s magical trips at night time suggesting madness or worse, a brain tumour. And so Wilson finds inspiration in the past, in his head. The magic that Midnight in Paris promises in its trailer is actually a pretty convincing argument for me to believe that the characters in my life are in fact from a Woody Allen film. Because if I can write a story in my head and make characters come alive and dance and talk and make them happy… if I can do that, isn’t it just magic? Isn’t it the most beautiful feeling in the world? Why shouldn’t I do it? Why should I believe in a world where it is not possible to do these things? Why accept reality instead of the happiness I find in fiction?
The magic happens in my head and I sprinkle it with things I want in life. I add color by reading and watching things I want to remember, I add culture and charm through my pursuit of the finer things in life. Yes, I heard a podcast on Judaism and read a ton of articles on the Atlantic… I did this to get a better understanding of the characters in my world and how broad I may stretch my imagination. I have learnt about why Jay Z is cool and why Barak Obama thinks Kanye West is a jackass. I have read about the wailing wall and the founder’s story of kiva. And I want to bring elements of this into this fantasy world I am creating.
Oh it’s a fine one. I wish I could share it with you.