I often say that I’d love to have lived in the XXth century. Wearing ‘20s clothes, writing on typewriters, dancing rock n’ roll, going to jazz clubs and travelling in old cars. That’s what I’ve always dreamed of.
But one thing I know, even though I don’t like to believe it, is that we always want what we don’t have.
And that’s what confirmed Midnight in Paris, by Woody Allen. This film, released in 2011, tells the story of Gil (played by Owen Wilson), an American guy who came to spend a few days in Paris with his fiancée – soon-to-be-wife – Inez (Rachel McAdams). Gil, oppositely to his materialistic girlfriend, is a dreamer, who’s fond of the ‘20s and walking under the rain. As he wants to become a writer, he decides to wander in the French Capital, alone, to find inspiration. One night, at midnight, an old car stops in front of him, and the passengers invite him to come. He follows them and he’s transported in a sort of dream with wide open eyes, a time travel back in the ‘20s.
During his night rides in the past, he finally lives the life he’s always dreamed of. Meeting famous painters and writers – Picasso, Hemingway, Guertrude Stein and more -, discovering Paris by night at the beginning of the XXth century, seeing people’s way of behaving at this era… He feels like his dream finally came true.
But one night, he’s introduced to Adriana (Marion Cotillard), Picasso’s mistress. They fall in love with each other. But then – and here’s for me the important part – while Gil raves about life in 1920, Adriana admits that she’d rather live in the Belle Epoque, during the late 1800’s.
Gil is very surprised. How can someone prefer to live in another era than the ‘20s ?
Another night, while they’re together, a car stops in front of them. Invited by the passengers, they both get in the car, and start discovering life in 1800, that Adriana always dreamed of.
But when they get to the Moulin Rouge, they meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas, who all agree that the Golden Age is the Renaissance.
Gil finally understands that everyone wants to live in another era, because we always want what we don’t have. He concludes with this phrase :
« That’s what the present is. It’s a little unsatisfying because life is unsatisfying. »
Although I don’t think is a masterpiece, this movie delivers a great message. I was used to say that life was probably funnier and more exciting in the past, but I was probably wrong, because perhaps at this time, people were saying it was better before, or will be better later.
This movie is a good lesson of life, I think. And we should all reconsider our way of thinking, and stop complaining (although it’s almost impossible, I know ;))