The auditorium at the Magnolia was filled with long-time Woody Allen fans (more gray hair than usual in West Village). The gray-hairs were rewarded for their patience with Allen's hit-or-miss late career with this lovely, romantic, nostalgic, funny, surprising, and whimsical trip to the City of Lights.
A valentine to Paris. A valentine to and a clear-eyed analysis of the whole idea of an earlier, more golden age. Those Good Old Days. What is the appeal of the remembered or imagined past? As one character remarks, "the present is a little unsatisfying, because life is a little unsatisfying."
The film is beautifully cast (Chock-Full-O'-Stars) and looks enchanting (Ahhh, Paris) and its tone is much more cheerful than in many recent Allen films. Wilson's character takes midnight strolls that bring him to Paris of the twenties, where he hangs out with artists like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Dali. The audience gets to tag along.
image courtesy of Sony Classics
My only quibbles are uneveness of tone when a (very funny) joke is dropped late into the film - maybe it needed another, balancing joke earlier? And the role of Fiance is played too one-note, too obviously hostile too early... I think it would work better if she started out more I'm-just-teasing-sweetheart then morphed into a Shakespearian scold. But who cares? This is a terrific movie. Anyone up on their early-modern Western Culture will enjoy it - so much fun! to meet Luis Bunel, Dali (Adrien Brody enjoying himself), and especially Gertrude Stein (our own Kathy Bates). But even if your cultural history is a bit rusty, it's a magic carpet ride.
I'm making room on my shelf for the DVD.