Monday, July 04, 2011

Film Critic Bias?

SEE! Cardboard cutouts of famous literary people!
SEE! A static camera, misfired jokes, uneven acting and recycled themes!
SEE! Kathy Bates playing Gertrude Stein as-- Kathy Bates!

Yes, I'm talking about the well-hyped Woody Allen flick, "Midnight in Paris." It's a nice little movie, I guess. But-- A-minus or Four-Star reviews? Something's going on here.

For much of the film, "Midnight in Paris" plays like a classic movie "Bomb." At times it's so bad it's embarrassing. Star Owen Wilson has no discernible personality or talent. He spends the time either moping about himself or waving his hands around. Through his characters Woody Allen declaims about how wonderful Paris is, but other than a moment or two, he doesn't make us feel it. Throughout he uses Gunsmoke-era TV camera setups. Any other director would be hammered for this and for the lethargic pace. The realization hits that Woody never advanced as a director. (If anything he's gone backward.) He's not a director. He's a writer-comedian who directs.

The film is surely no better than the recent "Atlas Shrugged" movie which was savagely attacked by film critics. But then, this one is by Woody Allen. One of them. The movie takes place among the smug and the affluent, a privileged class of dilettantes able to float above the hectic drama of the world.

For sensing the Twenties, I'd recommend the several literary memoirs about the period from the likes of John Glassco and Robert McAlmon. Or rent a movie from the Eighties called "The Moderns."


Brian Busby said...

I've always had a bit of a soft spot in my heart for The Moderns, in part due to the fact that it was shot primarily in Montreal. My hometown - and John Glassco's - I've had drinks in many of the same places as Wallace Shawn and Geneviève Bujold. A fine film made on a shoestring budget.

King Wenclas said...

(Mr. Busby has written what looks to be a critical biography of John Glassco which among other things delves into the striking Twenties memoir. Click on Busby's name for more info. I guess the questions involved are, How much of the famous memoir is accurate? It's such a wonderful adventure which brings the period to life that the reader almost-- but not quite-- doesn't want to know. What was John Ford's famous quote?
But surely, surely, the definitive movie of the literary part of the Lost Generation remains to be made. Compared to Glassco, whatever Woody Allen's had to say is of a grade school mentality.
In the mean time, for those who haven't seen "The Moderns," as Busby affirms it's well worth renting.)