Midnight in Paris: nostalgia for a golden age
A few weeks ago, I managed to find a cinema showing Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s latest creation and one that has been received with rather mixed reviews. It is funny that the British public laud French cinema as a pinnacle of artistic talent, although relatively few flock to see the few French films that appear on screen here. And yet, here was essentially an American film based on the cliché everyone uses about the City of Light, and you were hard pressed to find a cinema showing it…
Whilst Laura has given a good summary of the story, I have to say I was a little disappointed by the film. The fact that it was a romantic portrayal of the city did not faze me at all, but Owen Wilson didn’t do much to sell it to me either (let alone his awful wife!). For me, the cinematography, the glamorous ’20s costumes, the show-stealing Marion Cotillard, and a brief appearance from the brilliant Gad Elmaleh were what really saved it. That said, I am not going to go into detail about its flaws – I think the film touched upon something much more relevant to those of us who have fallen under the city’s spell… nostalgia of a golden age.
Of course this is something that is hard to qualify. Each of Woody Allen’s characters longed for a different period better and culturally superior to their own. The ’20s, the Belle Époque, the Renaissance… even the Court of the Sun King himself! Wouldn’t we all love to have witnessed each of them? Ultimately, I suppose, this helps us very little, and periods of our lives even six months ago can leave us wishing we could relive certain experiences.
With such an appropriate background, I was reminded of my three months working in Paris. Whilst I won’t pretend my Parisian world was as idyllic as Owen Wilson’s, it felt close at times. I used to constantly find myself in wonder at the small architectural flourishes you could find in virtually any backstreet of central Paris. I was so proud to show my visitors the different areas of the city, and always ready to fall in love with it all over again with their sense of enchantment at seeing it for the first time.
In the same way, it is a wonderful feeling when the opening sequence of a film brings you back to a series of places that you know and love. Seeing them on screen romanticises them, no question, and good photography can do the same thing. Before I succumbed to digital photography (only quite recently), I was convinced that my old low-tech brick-style camera was the only way forward. I still look at some of those pictures, convinced that the quality was a hundred times better… and, perhaps I imagine it, they give me that same feeling of an era gone by. This probably says more about the clever production of the film than my photography skills, but I thought I would share with you some of my favourite pictures from Paris.