A small delight

Woody Allen’s latest, Midnight in Paris, has few surprises, but many delights. This small fantasy opens with a panoramic tour of the city of light, to a jazzy soundtrack, echoing the opening of Manhattan.

Owen Wilson plays a budding novelist in Paris on holiday with his fiancee and her family. He’s talking about walking in Paris in the rain; she hates the place and can’t wait to get back to the US.

One drunken night, he decides to walk back to the hotel. Hours later, he is lost and sitting on some steps. An old car pulls up, and drags him away to a party. Cole Porter’s playing the piano, and he’s introduced to F Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. He listens to Hemingway muse on the meaning of love and life, and eventually staggers home in the wee hours.

So entranced is he that he develops a habit of taking these midnight strolls: he meets painters, surrealists, writers and becomes a regular at the open house of Gertrude Stein, who offers some sound advice on his novel. (Kathy Bates steals the show with her portrayal of Stein.) And, of course, he falls in love with an artist’s model of the 1920s.

Owen Wilson makes a remarkable Woody Allen standin, and you can picture Woody speaking the lines as the film proceeds. It ends, as it must, with our hero walking through Paris in the rain.

A gem of a film. Highly recommended.