That's what watching Allen's latest film, "Midnight in Paris" , was like. A big old right cross. If you're an artist of any kind, do yourself a favor and watch it. You won't be the same afterwards.
On one level, the movie unfolds like a typical Woody Allen hobbyhorse: the main character Gil (played brilliantly by Owen Wilson) is unsatisfied with his very cozy life: he has a beautiful fiance namede Inez (Rachel McAdams), he's a rich Hollywood script rewriter, and, as the film opens, he's visiting his favorite city, Paris. All to the good. But he quickly makes clear that he's bored being a "Hollywood hack" and yearns to finish a novel he started, wanting to give "actual literature" a try.
It becomes obvious early on that he and Inez are ill-suited for each other--she loves the glitz and glamor of Paris, the shopping for expensive $18,000 chairs and dining in chic restaurants, while Gil wants only to walk the city streets in search of that je ne sais quoi that has infected French-based artists for centuries.
And he finds it. While strolling home alone after a dinner date with Inez's former professor Paul (a super-duper annoying Michael Sheen), he's whisked away by a car-full of Parisians dressed like they're straight out of the twenties. From that moment on, Gil goes back in time several different times, meeting some of his greatest literary heroes--Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald--along the way, eventually gaining the confidence to take a shot at his dream.
I like Woody Allen. Ever since I saw "Manhattan", I've been hooked. But this movie takes the cake. I've been in desperate need of artistic inspiration lately, and this film smacked me in the face with it. It's so real-seeming, you so feel Gil's angst over the competing interests of making lots of money and artistic satisfaction, that after the final credits roll, you cannot wait to get back to work on your novel.
Have you seen it? Let me know what you thought of it if so.