Exactly What To Steal From Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris

I’ve never been a Woody Allen fan.  Until now.

Last night I sat in a dark theatre, absorbing seductive images of modern-day Paris, the dark reds and greens and golds of the city reflecting back on my skin.  Visually, the film, Midnight in Paris, embodied Hemingway‘s famous words wholly: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”

And it felt exactly like that, even if my luck only extended far enough to have lived in Paris through the cinematography of Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris was nothing less than a sumptuous feast.

Watching on and seeing much of myself in writer Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), the entire movie felt fertile ground for artistic theft.  And by that I mean, artists need to take note of Midnight in Paris and emulate away. 

What To Take From Midnight in Paris

1. A Feeling of Whimsy.  The film moved in magical bursts of color, nostalgia, and romanticism.  It felt charming and sentimental but worth every second.  I left the theatre believing life truly could be full of whimsy and that we just happen to pass over it daily.  Try incorporating this idea of magic into your art, see if it transforms the dull into the memorable, the haunting.

2. A Sense of Longing.  The movie’s protagonist longed for the past, the vibrance of Paris during the 1920s.  In the same way, all artists cohabit with dissatisfaction and longing for something greater.  While this longing takes different shapes, it’s a universal trait.  Employ that stinging melancholy, and write it into words, paint it through strokes on canvas, fingerpick it into a mournful tune.  Allow the constant longing to propel you into action.

3. A Willingness to Embrace the Hopeful.  After Gertrude Stein reads Gil Pender’s manuscript, she criticizes him on his “defeatist spirit.”  I’m guilty of this.  In an effort to be as realistic as possible (and most likely as melancholy as possible, too), I often end my stories in defeat.  Characters sink back into loneliness.  They stumble back into addictions, succumb to ego and vanity, estrange the very friends and family they cannot afford to lose.  This does happen in life, sadly.  But not always.  The human spirit still thrives and overcomes the saddest of tragedies.  If you’re a sucker for realistic defeat, try ending a story in reconciliation, redemption, revival.  If it’s your goal to inspire, this may be the route for you.

Are these elements too sentimental for art?  Does the world need more of this?  Let me hear your thoughts!

Also, check out this awesome post about the movie from one of my favorite bloggers, Jeff Goins: http://goinswriter.com/midnight-paris/.