There's something about the midnight hour, something special, mystical, and magical. In the case of this marvelous movie, its impact is fully realized, as we see our protagonist suddenly realize that he has the opportunity to face that which he truly admires, treasures, and dreams about. In the opening scenes, he expresses his desire to settle in the city of lights, and we know it's not going to be an easy thing to do. His girlfriend and he are quite different in their appreciation of what being in Paris means. She understands it's special, maybe from an aristocrat's point of view. He might be looking at it, as the dream place for an artist to find aspiration to fulfill his artistic goals.
One night, he wanders into the streets of Paris and finds himself lost, only to find himself rescue by a party of night socialites who turn out to be quite famous in some literary circles. Soon, the screenwriter/aspiring writer has an opportunity to see himself living one of his dreams as well as slowly come to some surprising epiphanies as he discovers more and more who his new acquaintances might truly be, and most important what their dreams really are.
The film is set in several time periods, and Paris glows intensely and seductively in everyone of those. From its overcast skies and reflective streets, showing lovely architectural details and its magnificent landmarks to the superb and lovely recreations of older time periods, one can't help being seduced, charmed, and inspired to find a way to show what a special place, and consequently what a truly magical film this might be.
Performances are outstanding all around, with Cotillard once again stealing every second she is on the screen. Through her eyes and carefully delivered lines, we understand what attracts us to this special time and place. She is a gorgeous and very talented performer, one who might be truly aware of her standing, yet she doesn't dwell on it. She attracts many types, but her philosophy is unique, move on, enjoy, live the moment. In a way, she is like the city that has inspired Allen, and many others before him. Paris as a place might not be aware of its magnetism, its beauty, and its power. Cotillard's muse is the perfect human equivalent, a dazzling and potent woman, who moves from man to man, place to place, time to time, and who surprises us with her own wishes near the end of the story.
Wilson inhabits the Allen persona, and he does a very good job, not creating a tired imitation, an annoying cliche that could have ruined the perfect balance of sight, sounds, and insightful dialog, keeping this masterpiece way ahead of the best Allen has offered before. For those of us who gasped during the fantasy sequences of "The Purple Rose of Cairo", the marvelous recreations of the stage in "Bullets Over Broadway", the dissection of relationships in many of his best films, get ready to see it all finally come together, as he picks from the best, and adds his personal touch, with many a funny and clever observation, uttered by Wilson with a honest and complete sense of wonder. Unlike many of his leading men, Wilson displays an innocence which allows him and us to see his adventures in a fresh light.
"Midnight in Paris" is a beautiful display of what movie magic can truly create, a sense of wonder long gone from contemporary cinema; This is a movie that entertains, teaches, and wears each one of its elements, like Paris bewitches us with every light, every facade, and every heartbeat of its music.