Saturday, October 22, 2011

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Woody Allen, 2011)

Hardcore Woody Allen acolytes have had a decade to learn to look past the often cheap gags, the increasingly unimaginative plotting, thin (if lively and well-acted) caricatures and over-conceived under-developed scenarios purely to bask in images and cadences that bring memories of Annie Hall and The Purple Rose of Cairo. For me at least, watching each year's fresh-yet-familiar Woody Allen frivolity is precisely and entirely about tripping on nostalgia, entering a warm, somehow cynically idealised smartalecky heart-gradually-emerging-on-the-sleeve world.

In this sense, I even thoroughly enjoyed things like Anything Else and Whatever Works. But in this sense, I've generally been in the very un-hip minority for well over a decade.

By the time I was allowed into a cinema without my parents, Allen's glory days were well and truly over and he was churning out things like Small Time Crooks (which made me laugh - I realise I'm supposed to be embarrassed about this). So to find myself queueing round the block for Allen's latest and leaving the cinema along with a beaming crowd - it's an unreal experience, and I don't know how to explain it.

This isn't some sort of return to form. It's a tender, charming, occasionally a little irritating (Woody, I love you, but name dropping is not a punchline) but perfectly satisfying concoction with a fabulous Woody surrogate and an overarching idea that is touching, thought-provoking and neither deeply nor subtly dissected.

That this particular offering has managed to strike a $50m+ chord with audiences and bring Allen out of 15 barely interrupted years of oblivion makes no sense to me whatsoever. And yet, for no rational reason, it makes me very happy.

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