There are only a few filmmakers who had such an illustrious career as Woody Allen. His sophisticated comedies and unforgettable characters are a favorite of critics as well as general audience. He directed 50 films till 2015 and most of them are successful.
Midnight in Paris (2011) is often cited as Allen’s most critically acclaimed and commercially successful film. The film premiered in 2011 Cannes Film Festival as the opener of the festival. Later it won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
“I have a tendency to romanticize Paris. When the lights come up and it’s almost midnight, everything looks so pretty.”, Allen expressed his love for Paris.
Allen while writing the screenplay took reverse approach. Initially, he only had the title “Midnight in Paris” in his mind and wanted to make something involving the title. After he came up with the idea of a car pulling up and whisking him into the past, he began writing the screenplay. He then showed it to his younger sister and co-producer of the film, Letty Aronson. Letty found the script too classy and said that not many people will be able to connect with it and the film will turn out to be only for certain niche audience. But, Allen didn’t care he wanted to make the film anyhow.
“I knew that I knew Gertrude Stein, and I’m not the most literate person,” he says. “The movie would be for those people who do know her. I never think about the audience. If Letty had been correct and only a minuscule amount of people would have been interested in Paris in the ’20s, that would have been fine with me too.”
Allen had to wait for the project to go on floor because it needed a modest budget to make the film which was partly a period-piece. So it was stalled for several years. Then, with association with Spain’s MediaPro the film was finally being financed with a budget of $17 million.
Allen didn’t have Owen Wilson in his mind while writing. He wanted someone from East Coast, but his casting director suggested Wilson who was Texas Born. Allen had to make changes to the character to make it more Californian. Later Allen realized it made the character richer. Allen wanted Rachel McAdams as Inez right from the start. He wanted a French Girl to play Adriana and his first choice was Marion Cotillard. Carla Bruni who was the first lady of France at that time played the role of Tour guide at Rodin Museum.
Cinematographer Darius Khondji initially wanted the 1920s sequence to be filmed in Black and White. But after discussions with Allen, they both agreed to use color to give the past richer and a warmer glow.
Designing the sets for the film was very challenging according to production designer Anna Seibel because of budget constraints. Anna and Set Decorator Hélène Dubreuil did a lot of research on that period especially while designing the Set of Gertrude Stein’s salon which she designed with intricate details which sets the mood for the scenes. But, according to her, she wanted to capture the mood of that period rather than excessive details. The street scenes of past period were also a challenge because the streets have changed drastically with very little similarities with the past. These scenes were filmed at midnight when the streets were empty. Anna and cinematographer Darius Khondji had to frame the shots very carefully which was tedious job.
The soundtrack of the film was very simple with carefully placed musical pieces and ambient sounds. The Music was mostly Jazz Classics. The theme song was composed by Jazz Guitarist Stephane Wrembel. The musical piece in the opening and closing scene was Sidney Bechet’s Si Tu Vois Ma Mère.
In Pictures – Behind-the-Scenes of Midnight in Paris (2011)
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