Editor’s note: Screen Editor Mike Goodridge will be blogging here about all the films in Cannes Competition 2011. Keep checking for blog updates throughout the festival.
[Warning: SPOILERS ahead]
There’s always a palpable excitement at the first press screening of Cannes - which this time was the 11am in Salle Debussy of opening night film Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris (or “the Allen” as it is described by the more pretentious critics). The room filled up within minutes, festival director Thierry Fremaux chatted amiably with various media and critics gushed over each other insincerely with hugs and kisses. Of course by day ten, the picture is entirely different. But more of that later.
Allen’s film was met warmly by critics, and it’s one of his most charming trifles in a while. Owen Wilson does his best Woody Allen impression (and far more appealing than Kenneth Branagh or Larry David) as a Hollywood screenwriter visiting Paris with his pushy fiancée Ines (Rachel McAdams) who yearns to be a novelist living in a garrett in the city in the 1920s. One night, while Ines is off cosying up to a pompous old friend of hers (Michael Sheen), he is whisked back in time to the 1920s where he meets Ernest Hemingway, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Dali, Bunuel, Man Ray and a beautiful woman called Adriana, played by Marion Cotillard, with whom he falls in love.
There was loud applause for Midnight In Paris which starts off as Paris porn (a worryingly lengthy montage of scenes from the city) but turns into a pleasingly fanciful fantasy a la The Purple Rose Of Cairo. There’s also a rich cast including the beautiful Lea Seydoux as a woman in the present who catches Wilson’s eye, the talented Tom Hiddleston and Alison Pill as the Fitzgeralds, Corey Stoll very droll as the macho Hemingway and the wonderful Kathy Bates as Stein.
Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, playing here as Carla Bruni, is in just a couple of scenes as a guide at the Rodin Museum. The production is clearly trying to keep the conceit secret. In the press book, Dali is listed as “Salvador”, Hemingway as “Ernest” and Stein as “Gert” but now that the movie has been screened, the secret is out.
There are a couple of lovely moments that delighted the critics. At one point, Wilson suggests to Luis Bunuel that he make a film about a group of diners who find that they can’t leave a dinner party (The Exterminating Angel), leaving the director perplexed as to why they wouldn’t just walk out the door.
Indeed it could be the perfect opening night film for Cannes - witty in a light intellectual sort of way, while packed with attractive actors, locations and the French First Lady.
Now we’re ready to get serious with the Competition titles.