2011 saw the release of Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris. Viewers follow an American screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) as he wanders around Paris drunk one evening, gets transported to the 1920’s and grows infatuated with the famous figures he interacts with. His affair with another time period interferes with the time he tries to spend with his fiancee (Rachel McAdams).
One does fantasize about the lives that contributed to a golden age of art, music and literature. In fact, I’ve been testing out this theory of using wine as a vehicle to time travel for a while. The historical content of the film is gracefully interlaced with Allen’s cinematography and quirky characters. 1920’s junkies will enjoy the music and the historical figures.
Among the famous individuals Gil meets are F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill, respectively), Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), who all interact with him when he travels back in time. Even though Gil believes that life was better in the 1920’s than it is today, he learns an important lesson: the present is “a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying.”
Midnight in Paris is reminiscent of a short story that Allen wrote called “The Kugelmass Episode.” In this story, the unsatisfied Professor Sidney Kugelmass uses a cabinet built by his friend to transport himself into works of literature. For the low cost of $20, Kugelmass is able to meet Emma from Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Enchanted by the concept, Emma asks Kugelmass if she can travel back to his world with him. Ultimately, like Gil, Kugelmass learns that there is no time like the present.
Midnight in Paris is also similar to the Moberly-Jourdain incident in 1901. In August that year, the academics, Charlotte Anne Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain, went on a trip to see Versailles. After their tour, they wandered into the gardens and Petit Trianon. They began to feel lost and increasingly disenchanted. “Everything suddenly looked unnatural, therefore unpleasant; even the trees seemed to become flat and lifeless, like wood worked in tapestry,” Jourdain noted. “There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees.”
They wandered further into the garden, and a man showed them the way out. As they continued on their way, Molbery noticed a woman who looked a lot like Marie Antoinette. There were others dressed accordingly. It appeared that Moberly and Jourdain had walked through a hole in time, reappearing in France during the 1500’s.
A long while passed before the two women would report their findings to anyone. In 1911, they published a book together called “An Adventure” but would not take credit as the authors until 1931, thirty years after the incident. Experts to this day wonder if the two academics had a shared delusion, entering another time period together based on how powerfully they influenced each other. On the other hand, there is a chance that they managed to time-travel to another period due to a time slip.
Midnight in Paris is Allen’s highest grossing film, with over $150 million worldwide by the end of its run in theaters. It also won the Oscars in 2012 for Best Original Screenplay, and for good reason: Woody Allen has a special talent for boosting the romantic atmosphere of the streets of any city. It was hard not to book a flight to Paris after watching the movie countless times. Anyone who greatly appreciates time travel, the 1920s or Owen Wilson saying “wow” a lot should definitely check out Midnight in Paris.
Marina Caitlin Watts is a senior studying Communication. In addition to writing for The Cornell Daily Sun, she has also been published on various film websites along with The Daily Beast. She loves Frank Sinatra and hates decaf coffee. If you need her, she is waiting for Godot. Watch Me If You Can appears on alternate Fridays this semester. She can be reached at [email protected].