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In “Midnight in Paris,” the City of Light is brightest after dark

By Carli Velocci, a third-year English major, with minors in journalism and cinema studies

Auteur filmmaker Woody Allen has become known as an authority on crafting quirky comedies with undercurrents of profundity.

“Midnight in Paris”—his 48th feature-length film in his five-decade long career—is no different.

In “Midnight,” Allen channels his idiosyncratic persona through Gil (Owen Wilson), a struggling novelist whose precarious engagement to the uptight and misguided Inez (Rachel McAdams) seems doomed. Unlike Inez, Gil longs to experience the City of Light in the 1920s through the eyes of the most creative minds of the time, including Salvador Dali, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.

In a way, Gil lives out his dream. In fairy tale fashion, he hops into a cab at the stroke of midnight and is transported to his favorite era in his favorite city. He mingles with Fitzgerald, Hemmingway and Stein—all played with supreme gusto—and meets his perfect woman in the form of Adriana (Marion Cotillard). This fantasy—unexplained yet utterly believable—appeals to the nostalgic imagination in all of us.

At one point in the film, Gil tells Inez that he has fallen in love with Paris. Her response—that he is “in love with a fantasy”—is anything but conciliatory.

Though charming and witty, most of the banter and one-liners are fluffy sentiments that dance around the problem of nostalgia and longing. Gil experiences life in a different era, but his enjoyment is fleeting and, as it turns out, impractical.

The burning question becomes whether the past is preferred over the present.  Allen does not answer this question, and he doesn’t have to. As Gil finds out, happiness trumps nostalgia.

“Midnight in Paris” is now playing at AMC Loews Boston Common, Coolidge Corner and Kendall Square. Check local listings for showtimes.

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