The first thing most of us Americans notice when we visit Europe is
how much older the cities are, how much more history they have.
The cities have so many layers of history that it's possible to imagine
turning a corner into another era.
That's just what happened to Gil Pender in Midnight in Paris. He
turned the corner into the Paris of the 1920's.
Paris is laid out in a series of concentric circles broken by a
meandering loop of the River Seine.
It is divided into 20 administrative sections or arrondissements,
arranged in a clockwise spiral starting in the center of the city on the
right bank of the river.
Much of Midnight in Paris is set primarily in the arrondissement of
Montmartre on the left bank, the center of avant-garde Paris of the
1920s. Montmartre is notable for the Basilica de Sacre-Coeur, the
big white church perched on the highest point in Paris.
Paris was a wonderful city for writers, lovers and artists. Cole
Porter wrote many songs about it. At one point in the story, Gil
buys a book from a second-hand bookseller on the banks of the
Seine. It was Adrianna's book about her love for Gil--and for
Paris. "That Paris exists and anyone could choose to live anywhere
else in the world will always be a mystery to me," she wrote.
Other writers have felt the same way. The city was Hemingway's
"moveable feast." It was "where Monet lived and painted."
Other artists who lived in and were inspired by Paris include the
Spaniards Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. In the movie, the
Surrealist Dali, played by Adrien Brody, wants to paint Gil and a
rhinoceros, and scenes feature Rodin's Thinker.
P A R I S
A puzzling scene from the movie is in the oval
gallery of l'Orangerie, which was constructed to
house Monet's water lily paintings. Painted in
the artist's old age, they sweep around the gallery
with just white above and below. To see and
hear a discussion of the setting, click on large
1920s map of Paris, narrow, winding
cobblestone streets, lights and nightlife
and art deco decoration.