Discovering an Artist’s Identity at Midnight in Paris

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Gil (Owen Wilson), the protagonist of Midnight in Paris, is a creative type; he’s a writer searching for his voice. Rather than only fantasize about the Paris of the 1920s, he goes there. Exploring his history offered Gil insight into his current situation and the confidence to act to improve it. Gil’s success as a screenwriter in the past and his aspirations to become a famous writer like the ones he encounters in the 1920s, such as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, is the source of his nostalgia for those times. Nostalgia has nothing to do with objects or places, as it is considered in Midnight in Paris film; it is all about how a person feels about a past event and how they use it to shape their present and future. 

Gil Pender’s career as a film fixer in Hollywood is lucrative but ultimately unfulfilling to the theme of nostalgia. Nonetheless, he plans to put pen to paper and compose a book. Even the unfinished book manuscript, whose protagonist is a guy who works in a “nostalgia store” selling the disposable antiques of bygone eras, is in his possession (Midnight in Paris). Gil brings his future wife, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her annoying philistine parents to the City of Lights. Gil also has to put up with Inez’s ex-boyfriend Paul, a self-important scholar-critic who is removed from the aesthetic experience and offers only academic comments. Gil is completely at odds with their way of thinking. Interactions between Gil and Gabrielle’s characters imply a lack of nostalgia as they recall the 1920s in Paris (Laughey et al. 315). At the film’s conclusion, Gil offers to escort Gabrielle home but then backs out as it begins to rain. In response, Gabrielle says, “I don’t mind being wet. And Paris looks its best when it’s pouring outside. Gil keeps harping on the fact that the rain makes Paris lovely throughout the film.

Given that Gil’s wife was always at odds with his views, marrying Gabrielle, who shares those views, has given him a feeling of stability in his private life, providing the play of nostalgia theme in the film. However, because of their similarities, the two characters’ memories of a wet Paris become a common past rather than separate ones (Clark 124). Therefore, the present is handled the same way as the characters’ nostalgia, and the future cannot be handled differently, undermining the idea that the feelings are nostalgic (Newman 61). They are not missing the rain of the 1920s in Paris since they are experiencing it now. In the same vein as Midnight in Paris, the book Prague states the power of nostalgia and the importance of remembering the past.

In Midnight in Paris, Paul exemplifies the concept that one’s past is the foundation for nostalgia. Both Paul and the tour guide have their interpretations of Rodin’s background and work. The tour guide and Paul both have their perspective on the collective history that is Rodin’s art, but their perspectives are at odds with one another (Dadfar et al. 145). Each individual is confident in his or her interpretation of the work’s past since it informs their current appreciation of the piece. Both protagonists have yet to convince the other of her view of Rodin’s work; the proper interpretation of the piece’s history remains moot. What matters is the intensity of emotion Rodin’s sculptures evoked in these people in the here and now (Baquero 126). There can only be active interactions in the present that may lead to numerous viewpoints in the future if people have different ideas on a shared past (Cady 5). A conversation between Gil and Gabrielle is another instance in the film that explores individual and communal memory.

When Gil goes across time, he encounters Stein and Dal, two artists who would be ideal judges of his work. Hemingway hints at the rivalry among the authors of the lost generation. Yet, he nevertheless gives Gil some sound advice: “No subject is bad if the tale is truthful, if the writing is clean and honest, and if it upholds bravery and grace under pressure.” On the other hand, Gil makes a jest to Hemingway about how he thinks all contemporary American writing can be traced back to Huck Finn, a statement that is often credited to Hemingway (Jones 113). Gil knows that his nostalgia for a bygone era and its associated creative society is unattainable. He has decided to finish writing his work while living in Paris. He breaks up with his Republican fiancée and her parents, leaves Hollywood and Malibu, and begins building the life he envisions for himself in Paris.

Scot Fitzgerald brings Gil to a sober Hemingway at a 1920s bar, giving Gil another chance to meet the author. As Gil meets many authors, he becomes more befuddled. However, when Gil asks Hemingway to read his manuscript and provide feedback, Hemingway quickly declines. All that counts are that he writes it, he tells him, so he shouldn’t be afraid to. Despite his ambition to emulate Hemingway, he is unaware of the author’s advice not to let his doubts about the existence of better authors than himself hold him back (Norberg 96). He proves to him that he is capable of success. But Hemingway has decided to read Gil’s book. While leaving the bar to get it, Gil realizes that they never settled on a meeting spot. In retrospect, the bar is no longer there, but the present-day stores and eatery remain. To illustrate his argument that Gil shouldn’t bother revisiting the past, Woody provides this quote. Instead, he persists in his obsession with the past.

Gil and Adriana’s yearning for a simpler time seems impossible, and this is the film’s central message (because nostalgia is a theme). Have no nostalgia for a bygone period. As a result, Gil’s late-night shindigs transport him into the novel’s equivalent of a nostalgia store. Rather, we must confront the difficulties and disappointments that exist right now. Unlike Gil, Adriana does not have a soft spot for Roaring Twenties Paris (Chark 201). She laments the monotony of the present and admits that she misses the Belle Époque more than any other era. Back in the 1890s, she and Gil revisit Paris. They end up at Maxim’s, where they encounter even more fascinating people, including Degas, who secretly wishes he could return to the Renaissance.

Generally, the way Gil feels about Paris in the 1920s is emblematic of historical nostalgia or a longing for a moment in the past that one has never lived through. This is in sharp contrast to the feeling of nostalgia that comes from one’s reminiscences. While the film does a good job of depicting Gil’s historical nostalgia, Gil’s nostalgia serves as the film’s anchor, allowing Gil to return to the present. Some research suggests that a healthy dose of nostalgic thinking might help individuals weather transitions and recover from trauma. Historical sentimentality is unique. A pessimistic view is associated with a penchant for historical romanticism. Those prone to historical nostalgia are less happy with their relationships and have a more pessimistic picture of their history. This is shown in the way Gil interacts with his future wife. A person’s mental health would suffer if they continued to live in a dream world. In this case, Gil does not. What makes the picture so remarkable is that Gil does find his way back.

Works Cited

Baquero Mariana; Preserving memories, Handwritten Pitchers. Pottery Making illustrated, 25 years. 2022

Chark, Robin. “Midnight in Paris: On heritage and nostalgia.” Annals of Tourism Research 90 (2021): 103266.

Clark Neil., Fight the Future: The politics of nostalgia is nothing to be ashamed of; 2022

Cady Lang, Chasing Nostalgia in New York City. Maggie Shipstead; “the world`s oldest cult” 2022

Dadfar, Mahboubeh, et al. “Love of Life Model: role of psychological well-being, depression, somatic health, and spiritual health.” Mental Health, Religion & Culture 24.2 (2021): 142-150.

Harder W.D; & Greenwald F.D; Sustaining Fantasies, Daydreams, and Psychopathology. Journal of Clinical Psychology, November 1995. Vol. 21, No. 6

Jones Kent: Life is a Dream; In Woody Allen`s Midnight in Paris, an unfulfilled artist finds refuge in the past. June 2011

Laughey, William F., et al. “Love and breakup letter methodology: A new research technique for medical education.” Medical education 55.7 (2021): 818-824.

Norberg Johan, False Nostalgia; The “Good Old Days” Weren`t all that good, but they`re still messing with politics. 2022

Newman S. Leonard. Motivated Cognition and Self-Deception; Dep