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Midnight in Paris DVD Review

Midnight in Paris (2011) movie poster Midnight in Paris

Theatrical Release: May 20, 2011 / Running Time: 94 Minutes / Rating: PG-13 / Songs List

Writer/Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Kathy Bates (Gertrude Stein), Adrien Brody (Salvador Dalí), Carla Bruni (Museum Guide), Marion Cotillard (Adriana), Rachel McAdams (Inez), Michael Sheen (Paul Bates), Owen Wilson (Gil Pender), Nina Arianda (Carol Bates), Kurt Fuller (John), Tom Hiddleston (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Mimi Kennedy (Helen), Alison Pill (Zelda Fitzgerald), Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle), Corey Stoll (Ernest Hemingway), Marcial Di Fonzo Bo (Pablo Picasso), Vincent Menjou Cortes (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec), Serge Bagdassarian (Détective Duluc), Gad Elmaleh (Détective Tisserant), Daniel Lundh (Juan Belmonte), Adrien De Van (Luis Buñuel), Yves Heck (Cole Porter), Sonia Rolland (Josephine Baker), Emmanuelle Uzan (Djuna Barnes), David Lowe (T.S. Eliot), Yves-Antoine Spoto (Henri Matisse), Olivier Rabourdin (Paul Gauguin), François Rostain (Edgar Degas), Laurent Claret (Leo Stein), Tom Cordier (Man Ray)
Midnight in Paris is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Midnight in Paris ranks 40th in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Woody Allen has not drastically changed his creative process in the more than forty years since he established himself as an important filmmaker. Each year, Allen writes and directs one film. Though long identified as a true blue New Yorker, lately Allen has been filming in foreign countries, where it's been easier to find funding for his unique brand of cinema.
His independent movies, usually both romances and comedies, no longer save a role for himself but do attract some of the biggest movie stars around, who make themselves available at a fraction of their usual rates. Allen's 2011 film, Midnight in Paris, was written explicitly for the eponymous City of Light, a love letter not only to France's scenic capital, but to some of the great artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Many of the director's most recent efforts have been commercially insignificant, typically drawing mixed reviews and doing modest business in the United States. Midnight in Paris, however, departed from the norm. Grossing $56 million stateside and another $89 million overseas (and still playing around the globe), this newest film is Allen's top performer when inflation is ignored. It also won him some of the best reviews of his career. It is just about guaranteed to earn the 76-year-old another Academy Award nomination for original screenplay, his fifteenth. It is also expected to pick up a nod in the Best Picture category; it would become his first to compete for the industry's top prize in the 25 years since Hannah and Her Sisters did.

In "Midnight in Paris", modern-day writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is shocked to find himself in the middle of the city's rich 1920s culture scene. Gil receives some literary advice from straight-shooting author/adventurer Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll).

Midnight stars Owen Wilson as Gil Pender. An American screenwriter and self-described "Hollywood hack", Gil is struggling to finish his first novel. The romantic inside him is awakened in Paris, where he is visiting along with his pragmatic high-maintenance fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams), whose father (Kurt Fuller) is entering into a business deal with the French. Enamored with the city and its rich artistic history, Gil is floored to discover himself smack in the middle of its 1920s social scene when one night he accepts a ride with strangers in a vintage car.

Before long, Gil is hearing Cole Porter play one of his best-known creations at the piano while introducing himself to F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and his young, firecracker wife Zelda (Alison Pill). The brushes with literary legends don't end there; Gil is soon getting writing advice from the great Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), who volunteers to show Gil's manuscript to his most valued sounding board, Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). While at her house, Gil meets Pablo Picasso (Marcial Di Fonzo Bo) and takes a liking to his current muse Adriana (Marion Cotillard).

Gil soon returns to his comparably lifeless modern existence, but the next night at the stroke of twelve in the same spot, he again gets transported to that alluring period of the distant past. The fantastic evenings offer him abundant creative inspiration and guidance, but also threaten his relationship with Inez, whose kneejerk reaction to his stories is to question his sanity.

Gil (Owen Wilson) relishes the chance to use his fantastic experiences to show up his fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and her pedantic friend (Michael Sheen) in an art gallery. Gil (Owen Wilson) falls for 1920s Picasso muse Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who is more enamored with the Belle Époque than her own time period.

Make enough films and one of them is bound to eventually stand out. It's been a while since Allen's filmmaking prowess eclipsed his scandalous love life. He has pressed on, never faltering from his long-observed annual regiment, but rarely managing to set the cinema world ablaze or enter award season discussions for more than supporting actress considerations.
Midnight in Paris changes that, however, putting Allen in the same conversations as his younger and more frequently recognized fellow 1970s breakouts Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Allen famously displays no interest in accolades, his only Oscar ceremony appearance coming in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Despite Midnight's widespread acclaim and promising trophy potential, the director is not budging from his brand of reclusiveness to lend any support to its award season campaign. But he probably won't need to. His legacy, work ethic, and distinctive auteurial voice all speak for themselves. Allen is one of just a handful of men who began directing films in the 1960s and continue to do so with any regularity and significance. And even though he won Best Director and Original Screenplay in his first try, on 1977's Star Wars-defeating Best Picture Annie Hall, his sheer volume of creative output demands that a better than usual effort is properly noticed.

Midnight in Paris is definitely a better than usual effort for Woody Allen, his best in a long time and maybe ever. Finding his patent blend of intellect and neuroses as relevant as ever, this film is sharp, witty, and imaginative, beautifully diagnosing and dissecting the "Golden Age Thinking" that Allen is proclaiming himself guilty of. It's a winning showcase for Owen Wilson, whose innate likability has been called into question during the mixed bag that his leading man phase away from Ben Stiller's shadow has been. Wilson speaks for Allen, as, to a lesser degree, do all the actors. If you haven't previously been able to warm to Allen's talkative writing, this probably won't do the trick. But it is the most brilliant, soulful, and insightful he's been in ages and anyone who wrote him off, believing him incapable of ever again handily exceeding mediocrity, must give him another chance.

After one of the longest and leggiest box office performances of the year, Midnight in Paris came to DVD and Blu-ray last week, perfectly timed for holiday gift giving and best of 2011 discussions.

Midnight in Paris DVD cover art -- click for larger view and to buy from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Surround 3.0 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Featurette Subtitled
Release Date: December 20, 2011
Suggested Retail Price: $30.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc ($35.99 SRP) and on Instant Video


Old habits die hard for Woody Allen and Midnight in Paris upholds all of the director's trademarks from a score of prominent prerecorded jazz music to alphabetical cast billing in white Windsor-EF Elongated on black credits screens. Here, he hangs onto the picture and sound formats others have moved away from. DVD presents the film in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen and 3.0 discrete Dolby Surround. Visual excellence isn't too high on Allen's priority list, but shooting Paris with copious admiration yields plenty of pleasing compositions. They look terrific in the disc's clean, sharp transfer, which preserves the film's warm, yellow-driven palette. With action kept to a minimum, compression artifacts are nowhere to be found. It's not high definition, but that's the only complaint you can level against it. The soundtrack is less immersive than the majority of modern cinema and much of the dialogue sounds kind of flat. But importantly, the music is nicely and clearly presented.

Writer/director Woody Allen answers questions at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival with translations piped into his earphones. The title logo at the end of the "Midnight in Paris" theatrical trailer adds some graphic flair to Woody Allen's usual Windsor-EF Elongated font.


Everyone knows that Woody Allen doesn't do bonus features, but he has ever so slightly broken with tradition on that front. The DVD includes "Midnight in Cannes" (4:55), a short video collecting press conferences remarks by Allen, Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, and Adrien Brody from the French festival at which the film premiered last May.
Some interesting topics arise such as the fact that Woody Allen thought to cast Wilson and McAdams from seeing Wedding Crashers (whose title he does not utter) but worried (without good reason) that such a reunion could be distracting. Just as soon as it begins, the piece ends.

Midnight in Paris' fine original theatrical trailer (2:04) is kindly preserved and in full Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, no less.

The only other item is the full trailer for Roman Polanski's Carnage, which alone plays from the menu's "Previews" listing, but not before that.

Because no studio dare issue a Blu-ray without some exclusive bonus content these days, Midnight in Paris has cast & crew photo galleries only on BD, which is sold separately from the DVD and not bundled in combo pack as many other recent and upcoming Sony Pictures Classics releases have been.

The DVD's main menu provides a scored montage of '20s Paris clips with the corners darkened.

The eco-friendly keepcase holds a code for Sony's new rewards program and an insert promoting a Midnight in Paris getaway sweepstakes and travel package.

The Eiffel Tower lights up behind Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) on another magical evening in Paris.


I'm really happy with the charming and dreamlike Midnight in Paris. It's a very good film whose very warm reception is very well deserved by Woody Allen and his fine cast. It's not an all-time favorite and I think those entering with high expectations might be a bit underwhelmed. Still, it is one of the year's most appealing and stimulating films and should be recognized for that.

With great picture, decent sound, and a tiny supply of extras, Sony's DVD doesn't break the mold of Woody Allen simplicity, but it's one of just a handful of discs that is virtually guaranteed to win over any adult viewer. It will especially enchant anyone with an appreciation for modernist art, music, and literature.

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Related Reviews:
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Written and Directed by Woody Allen: You Will Meet a Tall Dark StrangerWhatever Works
Owen Wilson: The Darjeeling LimitedHall PassHow Do You Know | Rachel McAdams: Morning GlorySherlock Holmes
Marion Cotillard: Nine | Michael Sheen: Tron: LegacyThe Queen | Tom Hiddleston: Thor
France: MicmacsRatatouilleRenaissanceMonte CarloVan Gogh: Brush With Genius

Midnight in Paris Songs List (in order of use): Sidney Bechet - "Si Tu Vois Ma Mère", Swing 41 - "Je Suis Seul Ce Soir", Original Paris Swing - "Recado", Stephane Wrembel - "Bistro Fada", Conal Fowkes - "Let's Do It (Fall in Love)", Conal Fowkes - "You've Got That Thing", Joséphine Baker - "La Conga Blicoti", Conal Fowkes - "You Do Something to Me", Daniel May - "I Love Penny Sue", Enoch Light & The Charleston City All Stars - "Charleston", Enoch Light & The Charleston City All Stars - "Ain't She Sweet", Dana Boulé - "Parlez-Moi d'Amour", "Yerason", Yrving & Lisa Yeras and Conal Fowkes - "Barcarolle", "Can-Can" from "Orpheus in the Underworld", François Parisi - "Ballad Du Paris", François Parisi - "Le Parc de Plaisir"

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Reviewed December 28, 2011.

Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Sony Pictures Classics, Mediapro, Versátil Cinema, Gravier, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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