Midnight in Paris is an American movie released in 2011 and directed by Woody Allen. It is a fantastic romantic comedy set in Paris. The movie shows the clash between nostalgia and modernism. It presents three different historical periods in Paris. Depending on the locations shown in the movie, the city reveals different sides of its beauty.
Gil Pender is a screenwriter in Hollywood. However, screenwriting does not satisfy his creative ambitions. He wants to write a novel about a person, who works in the nostalgia shop. Gil thinks that life was better in the 1920s (Allen, 2011, p. 27). He is in Paris on vacation with Inez, his fiancée. Once, during a walk in the city, Gil gets lost, and strangers in the Peugeot of the 1920s take him to the past, where he meets Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein. Every night at midnight, an old car comes for him and takes him back to the 1920s. He meets Pablo Picasso and his girlfriend Adriana, with whom he falls in love. When Gil and Adriana kiss, they get invited into a carriage, drawn by a horse, which takes them to the 1890s, the time, in which Adriana wanted to live. In the Moulin Rouge, they meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, and Paul Gauguin, who tell them that the best time to live in is Renaissance. After hearing this, Gil understands that it is best to appreciate his own time, while Adriana decides to stay in 1920. Gil returns to 2010, breaks up his relationship with Inez, and goes for a walk under the rain with a person, who has the same vision of Paris as he does.
The film is set in three different periods of Paris history. It shows Paris in 2010 and the modern style of life of people who live there or visit the country as tourists. The movie is also set in the 1920s in Paris and shows the lifestyle of people who lived there in that time (Allen, 2011, p. 67). The movie shows how diverse these two times are, compared to each other. The movie also shows a little episode of the Paris in the 1890s. It shows what places were popular to visit at that time, and how the writers and artists, who are extremely popular nowadays, lived at that time, how they behaved, and about what they talked with each other. The movie shows the difference between the clothes of these three times. For example, nowadays women mostly wear trousers, skirts and shirts, while in the 1920s, women usually wore short dresses, and in 1890, they wore long luxurious dresses. The filmmaker also shows the difference in transport. For example, in the modern Paris, people travel by modern cars, in 1920, people traveled in the cars we call retro nowadays, and in 1890, people traveled in horse-drawn carriages.
In all three times, the filmmaker represents Paris as a beautiful, unique, and artistic city. It is the city of artists, writers, musicians, actors, sculptors, and other people, who have creative ambitions. It is the city, which one can truly appreciate only by people, who have the soul of a poet (Brody, 2012, p. 51). Materialistic people, who only care about money, will not be able to see the true face of Paris. It would seem too complicated for them. However, for artistic and creative people, Paris is the only city in the world, which can give them so much inspiration for their masterpieces (Rearick, 2011. P.125). It is the city, which looks special in the rain because the rain reveals its unique romantic atmosphere, which brings people closer to each other. Paris is the city, which looks beautiful at any time of the year and any time of the day. However, different times of the year and different times of the day reveal diverse sides of its beauty. The filmmaker underlines the beauty of Paris by showing how the main character of the movie loves to walk in the city, either alone or with people, who are also able to appreciate the beauty of the city.
The movie shows different monuments, neighborhoods, and private homes. At the beginning of the movie, the filmmaker shows almost three and a half minutes of beautiful Paris views (Allen, 2011, p. 115). Such famous buildings and places as Notre Dame de Paris, Champs Elysees, Montmartre, and Eifel Tower one can observe in the film opening. The filmmaker carefully selects all views to show the face of Paris. Later in the movie, one can examine such locations as Giverny, Montmartre, the Square of John XXIII, and Notre Dame in detail. The action also takes place near the Opera, Ile de la Cite, Sacre-Coeur, and Pantheon. The main characters visit Versailles Palace. The movie shows the façade of the Versailles Palace and its big and beautiful yards. Rodin Museum also finds its representation in the movie, in the modern period. The street called Rue Saint-Étienne du Mont also plays a significant role in the movie because Gil gets into the past from this street. The filmmaker represents restaurant Maxim’s Paris and Moulin Rouge during the time when Gil and Adriana were in the 1890s.
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The choice of locations has a strong influence on the portrayal of the city because depending on the location displayed, the city reveals different features of its beauty. For example, the Palace of Versailles shows the aristocratic beauty of Paris, which the Kings of France gave to Paris. Eiffel Tower is the symbol of romance (Allen, 2011, p. 155). The lights of it at night show how romantic Paris is at night. Notre Dame de Paris and Montmartre are the locations, which symbolize the beauty of Paris cathedrals. Arc de Triomphe shows the glory of Paris and of people who sacrificed their lives to protect France (Rearick, 2011. P. 75). Rodin Museum represents the beauty of Paris, brought to the city by the artists and sculptors, who lived there or came there to create their masterpieces.
One can characterize the vision of Paris by nostalgic attitude. The reason is that artists created the most famous and beautiful buildings and locations of Paris in the past (Brody, 2012, p. 73). Thus, only the people who are interested in historic past can truly appreciate the beauty of Paris. For example, when a person is walking in the yard of Versailles, they can almost see a King of France walking there. When the person visits restaurant such as Maxim’s Paris, which was extremely popular among writers and artists in 1890s, this person can feel that they are in the past. Moreover, this person can feel that one of their favorite writers will come into the restaurant any moment and join them at the table, talking about the new novel. History is everywhere in Paris. Different historical periods are mixed together in order to create the beauty of Paris.
The filmmaker uses different techniques to portray Paris (Allen, 2011, p. 163). For example, he uses a postcard-view at the beginning of the movie in order to highlight that almost all views of the city are as beautiful and perfect as postcards.
Characters of the film in all historic periods of Paris represent the real Parisians and not the idealized ones. Everyone behaves as they want to, regardless of the time period. Each Parisian, shown in the movie, has their own attitude (Allen, 2011, p. 147). For example, Zelda, the wife of Scott Fitzgerald, is very impulsive, she says what she wants to say, and does what she wants to do. Ernest Hemingway is a very self-confident person, who always says what he thinks. In the modern time, people also are not ideal Parisians. They act naturally and do what they want to do. No one in the movie is acting according to the stereotypes.
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To conclude, the movie Midnight in Paris is set in Paris. It shows the clash between modernism and nostalgia. The movie conveys the message that people should appreciate the time they live in because each time has its positive and negative sides. The action takes part in three different historical periods of Paris. The movie shows modern times in the year 2010, the 1920s, and 1890s. In all three historical periods, the filmmaker evaluates and represents Paris as a beautiful city, which gives inspiration to such creative people as writers, poets, artists, and actors. It is the city for people, who seek personal growth and do not concentrate on materialistic things such as money. Depending on the locations represented in the movie, the city shows different sides of its beauty. People shown in the movie are realistic and do not try to be ideal Parisians.
- Allen, W. (2011). Midnight in Paris. Los Angeles, CA: Concorde Home Entertainment.
- Brody, P. (2012). The real midnight in Paris: a history of the expatriate writers in Paris that made up the lost generation. Anaheim, CA: BookCaps Study Guides.
- Rearick, C. (2011). Paris dreams, Paris memories: the city and its mystique. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.