Sunday, 14 August 2011

Nostalgia two times

          Sometime last week, I had an exceptionally brilliant day when I managed to finally watch J.J. Abrams's Super 8 and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Both were very different, and splendid films, except they both had the theme of nostalgia running through them, in different ways ofcourse.

Super 8: The story is set in 1979. It is about a bunch of teenage kids who, while making a film about zombies for a competition, witness a disastrous train accident. Soon after all sorts of weird things start happening around the town, like electronics and dogs and people go missing. With the US Airforce taking over, and an unexpected recording in their super 8 camera, the kids are pulled into a mystery of galactic proportions. And in all of this, romance blooms.

          So this is the vaguest and most non-spilling synopsis I could come with. I know that isn't particularly my style, but seeing how much Abrams generally does for the secrecy of his films, and how much I love them, I feel like he deserves it. Except those who have read any reviews (I read only about a couple for the above-stated reason) have seen the parallels drawn to E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. So you know because of this, the belief that this is Abrams's practical love-letter to Steven Spielberg, and the fact that Spielberg himself is the producer, all points at the fact that this film might (or might not) have something to do with other-worldly things.

          But I was going to talk about the nostalgia aspect. Now anywhere that Super 8 has been mentioned, this word has been used. Quite simply it refers to the feel of the film, or rather it the way it makes the viewer feel while watching it. But that made me kind of sad. Super 8 is supposed to make one nostalgic about those lazy hazy days of summer when kids played in green lawns and first crushes were formed; kids ran around together and got into trouble for the stupidest things and the world was just sunnier and cleaner. And it just killed me that I could never feel that way, because I had never experienced such things in my life. As I have said countless times before, there are films that I just want to live in and Super 8 has definitely joined the list. It's just so lovely in its youth, and the child actors- the adorable Joel Courtney, the breath-taking Elle Fanning, the bossy Riley Smith and the destructive Ryan Lee are all great in their parts. Especially Courtney- he was just so honest and sincere in his role, that my heart went out for him. He gave the film the emotional arc it needed. It was because of him, and his relationship with the other child actors that made this summer blockbuster a blockbuster with lots of heart and warmth. Yes, this film exactly like those Spielberg classics, because even if it's about people from different worlds (or not), it shows that things like family and friendship and courage and curiosity are all universal and common, and never more so than in the innocence of childhood.

         All in all I thought it was a solid film. I didn't like the ending as much as the rest of it, but I do believe it's more of the theatre's fault rather than the film's. For some reason, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs kept popping into my head while, and after watching the film. All the visual effects, and the feel of a 70s town were spot on according to me. As I said before, what really drove this film for me were the kids, especially Courtney. A fantastic effort by Abrams...I hope he's proud of his tribute, I sure would be.

Rating- 9.5/10

Midnight in Paris: Gil is visiting Paris with his fiancée Inez and her parents. He is a Hollywood scriptwriter who is now trying his hand at a novel he has forever dreamt about writing. He is also in love with the City of Love, especially in the 1920s, but his love for the past is ridiculed by Inez, her parents, and her friends- the 'pedantic' Paul and his wife Carol. One night when he's out taking a walk, slightly inebriated, he comes upon some stairs somewhere in Paris, and as the clock strikes twelve, an antique car stops in front of him and people in it, dressed in 1920s attire, ask him to get on. And he does, and is transported to the time and land of his dreams- the 1920s. Here he meets a whole bunch of artists and writers and eccentrics, and is totally mesmerised by the glamour and romance of it. But this land only exists during the nights, and he is transported back to the 21st century in the morning, with Inez and everyone. This creates a few peculiar problems for Gil, and he must decide where, and when, his heart truly lies.

           This film...oh my god...BRILLIANCE! Okay focus. I have not connected to a Woody film like this since The Purple Rose of Cairo

          Nostalgia in this film is a feeling that the Gil longs for...for belonging to a place and time where important things that mattered happened, and the world was a better place with art and music running through it. It is an idea, or an an idea of a feeling. In the beginning Michael Sheen's absolutely repulsive character Paul (psuedo-intellectual- eugh!) says this about Gil's played by Owen Wilson, love for things and people and life of the past, or 'Golden Age thinking'- "The erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one you’re actually living in. It’s a flaw in the romantic imagination for people that find it difficult to cope with the present." I am telling you that if I was in Gil's place there, I would have either punched Paul on the face real hard, or ran away from there crying, or probably both. Because that right there is exactly how I am. This is my nostalgia- for a time where I have not really existed in. Like me wanting to live in the Super 8 world. I want to live in the Midnight in Paris world also...even more than that of Super 8, because the way Woody lays out the honey-hued Paris in the quite something else. And I haven't even started talking about the people Gil meets yet!

         He meets everyone really- the Fitzgeralds, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, T.S. Elliot etcetera etcetera. Woody Allen films have a way of making me feel really uncultured and stupid, and never moreso than in this film. But that's just a minor issue because these characters are really Woody's idea of them, and they are all extremely entertaining. My mouth was open through half of the film, because just the idea of meeting these masters of art and literature is just so mindnumblingly fantastic, that I could barely believe it. Note the barely, because I have this fascination with what general people call unreal, and that's very much real for me. Just like in Purple Rose. Among the people, I especially loved the Fitzgeralds; Zelda is splendid, Hemingway and obviously Dali. Dali! Dali! Rhinocerous! Yes I am not explaining that- watch it, if not for anything then to figure out my really pointless riddle.

        Ofcourse the most important person that Gil meets is someone who is actually not real at all- an artist muse named Adriana, played by the divine Marion Cotillard. In her he finds someone quite like himself- sopmeone who is unhappy with her present era and dreams of another one, and they have quite a lovely relationship. She becomes instrumental to his character development throughout the film, because it is through her decisions that Gil makes his important life decisions.

          I said in my 15 Questions Meme that my favourite movie setting is Paris, and Midnight in Paris has defintely become one of my most beloved films set there. The charm of the city, that is as present today as it was at any point in history, is shown so beautifully in the film. The beginning was quite a bit like Manhattan and I loved it; maybe not as much, but still. The music is excellent, especially all the Cole Porter. Another thing was the costumes- oh so Jazz Age! The actors were pretty fantastic too. I must say I had reservations about Wilson being the lead in a Woody Allen film, but he has totally proved me wrong. Yes he did do the Woody doppelganger thing, but it was so convincing. His expressions, for things like amazement at meeting someone ancient, being irritated of Paul, or scared of Inez, were spot on and funny- both in a HaHa way, and a sweet smiley way. Cotillard too was incredible, but that's a given. Still she was so romantic and beautiful and wonder Picasso would paint her. Amongst the supporting cast I loved, lurved, loaved, luffed Adrien Brody the most.

         Woody Woody one understands me like you do. I've noticed that those films of his with a bit of magic involved end up being my favourites. Despite the ending, I am absolutely overwhelmed by the concept of travelling to your favourite time period in Paris. Mine is the 60s, but I would love to go there at any point of time really. The screenplay and the film are both simply enchanting. There is the perfect amount of comedy, romance and wonder in it, and lots and lots of Paris's unmatched beauty. This is the first film this year that I am going to start my Oscar campaign for, and yes it indeed has become my favourite thus far.

Rating- 10/10


  1. I waaaaaaaaaaaanna see Midnight in Paris!!!!

    That is all.

  2. You muuuuuuuusssstt!!

    That is all.