Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Midnight in Paris
I am (or perhaps it would be more correct to say ... "was") a huge Woody Allen fan. Back in my formative years ... from age 13 or 14 to say my early 20's. I loved movies like, "Manhattan" and "Annie Hall." But my favorite was, "Play it Again, Sam."
Woody Allen spoke to me back then. So many of his films seemed to be about the personal struggle to find an identity. In these films, the guy "got" the girl, by first "getting" himself. And the heroes of these stories, like myself were dreamers. People who "imagined" more than pursued ... because the imagination is accessible.
To a small town kid in a small town world, everything seemed inaccessible ... so it was nice to be told that it's okay to dream. In "Play it Again, Sam," the main character was lost in a world of hero worship. To a kid raised on comic books and Doctor Who, this resonates.
Allan (Woody Allen's character) idolized Humphrey Bogart. The idolization was so complete that Bogart appears to Allan like an imaginary friend giving him advise and helping him learn to be more confident and brave, a lesson he ultimately learns as he sacrifices his own selfish happiness for the happiness of those he loves.
It is a lesson that I have carried throughout my life. I told my significant one the other day that, "The selfless decisions are the easiest ones for me to make, because they are the easiest for me to live with." It only occurs to me now, that Woody Allen taught me that ... and Humphrey Bogart taught him in the movie, Casablanca.
After "Play it Again, Sam" I too became something of a Bogart fanatic. I have seen 72 (I had a spreadsheet ... LOL) different Bogart movies all of which I taped with my VCR off of late night broadcast television and PBS back before the age of infomercials took classic movies away from TV.
Woody Allen had shown me another hero to worship, one as big and bold and brave as Superman or Doctor Who, but then he did a film with a message that seemed to kick my dreamer in the teeth. "The Purple Rose of Cairo" was a movie about a dreamer, about hero worship, about seeking an identity, and it was a film with a hard message, that seemed to say, "Dreams can't come true, and the real world is cruel, but it is all we will ever be offered."
The film shook me up (as I am sure it was meant to.) My "purple rose" colored glasses fell away ... and honestly, so did my love affair with Woody Allen. And I have not actually watched much in the way of Woody Allen since ... and that was way back in 1985 for those who are curious.
It's a shame, there is quite the filmography for Woody Allen between then and now, and although I have seen a few, (Hannah and Her Sisters, and Bullets Over Broadway) I have missed so much more. I need to revisit this inspirational force from my youth, and "Midnight in Paris" is proof of this.
"Play it Again, Sam" came to mind as I watched Owen Wilson meet his heroes in "Midnight in Paris" as did Bogart. In Casablanca, Bogart's passion is lost in Paris; in Sabrina, Audry Hepburn tells Bogart that Paris is most beautiful in the rain ... something that Woody Allen reiterates to us through Wilson.
I don't want to give away anything about this movie, so I won't ponder on the plot or events of the film, just that it made me feel the way "Play it Again, Sam" made me feel ... that we can learn from our heroes. But, interestingly it also had a message about not depending too much on dreams, but it didn't feel the need to "shock" us into this realization as "Purple Rose" had done, instead it is delivered to us as a gentle realization, as if to say dreams and reality can co-exist, and that the real danger is in placing too much importance on either one over the other.
In the end, Wilson's reality is made better for the dreams he entertains. I loved, "Midnight in Paris." Chills down my spine, loved it. I cannot recommend it enough.