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Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is a film critic for The New York Post and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

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    Merde-Night in Paris

    By Kyle | June 2, 2011

    “Midnight in Paris” is so feeble I’ve hardly bothered to mention it, but it’s puzzling that it is shaping up as Woody Allen’s biggest hit since at least the wonderful “Vicky Christina Barcelona.” David Thomson has a go at it in TNR. John Podhoretz is far more succinct in pointing out the movie’s blatant flaws in The Weekly Standard (though John loves Adrien Brody’s turn as Dali. I think Brody is actually a bad actor and is particularly embarrassing shooting his arm out into the air and pulling wacky faces in this movie. Sorry, you don’t get any points for doing broad clown comedy just because you think you have some sort of intellectual imprimatur.) And by the way: Does Woody Allen actually even have any taste of his own, or did he just borrow his ideas about genius off the shelf from the Museum of Modern Art gift shop?

    Says John:

    The movie is intended as a love letter to Paris, but its opening montage seems to have been constructed by typing “Paris” into Google Images and then filming all the pictures in the top row—the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the Louvre, the Tuileries. The travelogue aspect of the movie never strays from the obvious: In the course of Midnight in Paris, the characters visit Monet’s backyard, hear a talk about Rodin, tour Versailles, go to Les Halles, and buy books at Shakespeare and Co. The only thing missing is someone saying, “Ooh la la.”

    Evidemment! (Also, when the French say “Ooh la la,” it doesn’t really mean “that’s really sexy.” It generally means, “Tsk tsk” or “That’s a shame.”) The movie seems to have inspired an outbreak of advanced prose empurplement among writers, though. John thinks Woody’s critics are grading on a curve; I think the real reason is that the movie flatters the audience into thinking it is cultured, Francophilic and bright, when in fact liking this movie provides damning evidence against your possession of these qualities. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Paris is going to cringe through that opening scene, and through much else. Anyone who has read any amount of Hemingway knows that the pastiche of him is cheap and too easy. And anyone who doesn’t know that people have always rued having missed some previous golden age — an insight that doesn’t occur to the Owen Wilson character until the very end — hasn’t done much thinking about nostalgia.

    Topics: Movies | 9 Comments »

    9 Responses to “Merde-Night in Paris”

    1. Christian Toto Says:
      June 2nd, 2011 at 6:37 pm

      It’s fine that the fantasy ’20s era figures are cartoon like. But everyone else in the film is a cartoon character, too.

      Mass hypnosis may explain this. Or, people just realize it’s far superior to You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.

    2. Hunter Duesing Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

      MIDNIGHT IN PARIS looks awful. I admit to liking TALL DARK STRANGER, but only because Allen explored some of his ideas in a different manner. But it still wasn’t very good.

    3. witwoud Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 2:24 pm

      “Does Woody Allen actually even have any taste of his own, or did he just borrow his ideas about genius off the shelf from the Museum of Modern Art gift shop?”

      Yes! Exactly. He is absurdly obsessed with the idea of genius. Look at “Bullets Over Broadway.” It’s an enjoyable film, in a daft sort of way, but in the accompanying interviews, Allen revealed that he actually believed in this idea of innate, untutored, instinctive genius. Which frankly is a load of crap.

    4. Janie Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

      Thank you! I hate when people look down on me for generally hating Woody Allen movies because they tend to be about the troubles of rich, white New Yorkers who sometimes go to Europe. They always think it’s because I’m some kind of a Philistine. I think they just love him because they’ve been programmed to believe that he’s a tastemaker. But honestly, when was the last time you watched Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Celebrity. Allen movies have their moments and I actually like a couple of them, but I find them on the whole to be redundant and intolerable.

    5. ChrisZ Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 3:32 pm

      Once a big fan, I haven’t seen an Allen film since “Everybody Says I Love You.” That film illustrates the point I think you’re making, that Allen’s movies superficially flatter his audience, while at a deeper level denigrating and showing contempt for them. I think this is conscious on Allen’s part, an outgrowth of his “I’d never join a club that would have me as a member” schtick.

    6. yankeefan Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 4:36 pm

      @Janie: You’re entitled to your tastes, and Woody’s not for everyone, but let’s not go overboard. He has made more first-rate films than I can count. Much of the recent stuff has been duds, though I do think “Vicky Cristina” was superb.

      No one was “programmed” to think Annie Hall, Manhattan, Crimes & Misdemeanors, Hannah & Her Sisters, and a host of others were excellent pictures. And by the way, the Allen fans I know, myself included, are often his toughest critics. I won’t get near the dreck he’s been making lately, and no one has told me to rush and see Merde Night. Guess I’ve been deprogrammed.

    7. Kyle Says:
      June 7th, 2011 at 9:16 pm

      Agreed, he’s made easily a dozen classics, and even some lesser-known movies like “Shadows and Fog” are very interesting. I also liked “Deconstructing Harry” a lot, not to mention “Match Point” and “VCB,” and those are all long after he passed his prime.
      So it’s especially frustrating to see a first-draft script like “Midnight in Paris” being made into a film because Allen is in a rush to crank out a movie a year and doesn’t realize that he is no longer gifted enough to do that. The whole movie can be described in a sentence. And it all should have been condensed into the first act, at which point Allen should have thought of another twist to relaunch it for act 2. There are so many scenes of bland filler that aren’t funny and say nothing he hasn’t said 50 times before – such as the 3 or so scenes in which, as an art historian, Michael Sheen pontificates and we’re meant to think, like, Woody Allen-Owen Wilson, “What a pompous ass.” Sheen himself said he was playing “a stock character.”

    8. Classic Liberal Says:
      June 8th, 2011 at 3:07 am

      MATCH POINT was terrific. Which makes it the last terrific thing Allen’s done since CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS. But you have to give the guy credit. He has been writing and directing movies for forty-two years now — that’s over two generations — and in that time has given audiences at least TEN first-rate motion pictures, seven of which are regarded as bonafide classics (TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, SLEEPER, LOVE AND DEATH, ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE and CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS).

      How many other living American filmmakers can make that claim? (Clint Eastwood perhaps, but how many others?)

    9. yankeefan Says:
      June 8th, 2011 at 8:09 am

      He’s been mostly off his game for many years. I’ve tended not to bother with his films for a long time, unless I feel seriously persuaded to go. Merde Night hasn’t even crossed my mind as a possibility, and none of my fellow Allen fans have recommended it.

      I do admire his lunch-pail work ethic, but his gift hasn’t been equal to it for a long time.