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Midnight in Paris

Woody Allen is a director steadfastly doing his own thing.  One of the original movie mavericks, his career has lasted decades with varying degrees of success.  Midnight in Paris is his latest cinematic foray with a journey into a mind of someone wanting escapism.  Whilst perhaps not vintage Allen, it proves he still has the ability to craft accessible works while putting his own creative stamp on stories.

 

Travelling to Paris with his fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams), Gil (Owen Wilson) is a lost soul.  Although a successful Hollywood writer, his attempts at writing his first novel appear doomed.  Inspiration arrives when he arrives in the French capital and falls for its beauty.  Whilst Inez socialises with her friends, he walks the streets at midnight and is magically transported to the 1920’s.   With fantasy and reality converging, he takes stock of his existence and discovers new ways in enjoying what life offers.

 

A lighter confection than his recent works, Midnight in Paris finds Woody Allen in whimsical mode.  He’s been down this road many times with movies such as ‘Broadway Danny Rose’, of which this shares some similarities.  Exploring our nature in looking back, the screenplay shows how too much nostalgia can prevent us from living in the moment.  Such a temptation seems too great for Gil as his chaotic present is contrasted to the smoothness of his adventures in the past.

 

These elements are crafted in Allen’s usual laconic style with the camera lovingly showing Paris at its finest.   He is ably assisted by a fine ensemble led by Wilson who channels the ‘Allen persona’ well.  Whilst the story tends to lose its way towards the end, it’s one of the more engaging ones Allen has recently produced.  The foreign climes seem to suit him with his last several movies benefitting from different sceneries broadening the style of films he makes.

 

Midnight in Paris is a fine addition to Allen’s catalogue with the mix of humour and drama perfectly blending.  For someone still making the type of films he wants after fifty years it’s quite an achievement and hopefully he will continue doing so for some time yet.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

 

Contagion

Contagion’s director Steven Soderbergh recently announced he was retiring from making films.  A great shame as he has been one of the recent few successfully blending an independent sensibility within commercially driven stories.  Contagion is a good example as it bases its stirring tale with harsh facts.  While it doesn’t totally succeed in entertaining while it educates, his strong visual style ensures Contagion is a thought-provoking tale of fear and paranoia.

 

When an unknown disease hits world-wide mass panic ensues.  Affecting millions the attempts at containing the virus become more important than finding a cure.  Among those affected are Mitch (Matt Damon) and Alan (Jude Law) who race against the clock to prevent further catastrophe to those around them.

 

Catching any type of unknown disease is something everyone fears.  This is why Contagion is captivating and uncomfortable viewing exploring people’s differing reactions.  From using the disease for self-gain to fighting for survival, not one person’s aim is the same as it grips the global populace.  It’s interesting how the screenplay shows characters at various rungs of the social ladder with their background determining their reactions.  The large ensemble fit into the narrative with ease even if some of their characters aren’t given much chance to shine.

 

Contagion is often engaging if not as gripping as it could have been.  There’s no particular sense of drama despite the catastrophic situation.  Although Soderbergh didn’t need to adhere to the usual Hollywood histrionics his interpretation of the story feels more clinical than emotive.   The occasionally intrusive score doesn’t help either although the cinematography achieves the level of visual realism for which he strives.

 

Hopefully Soderbergh will re-think his professional stance by continuing to make quality movies like Contagion.  Anyone fearless in broadening the mind of their audience is much needed with works such as this a haven for those over-come by multi-plex banality.

 

Rating out of 10:  6