Album Review: Various Artists – Music From Midnight in Paris- A Film by Woody Allen

Midnight in Paris

Stephane Wrembel – Bistro Fada

Midnight in Paris is one of Woody Allen’s greatest recent films. Actor Owen Wilson stars lead role as a struggling writer, Gil Pender, who vacations to Paris from America with his fiancée. The film centers around Gil’s yearning to live in Paris. He idolizes all his favorite artists and writers like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, who were active during the 1920s modernist era. And because all these artists gathered together in Paris during that time, Gil becomes nostalgic and thinks Paris in the 1920s was the greatest time to live in. Gil’s fiancée however, doesn’t follow his vision and the two seem to have different goals and dispositions. One night, Gil takes a stroll by himself in the streets of Paris when suddenly as the clock strikes midnight, an antique car pulls to the curb full of passengers dressed in 1920s clothing. They pick him up and take him to a bar, and there, Gil realizes that he has been transported to the 1920s and sees all the artists and writers he admires. Allen brings together the perfect cast with a captivating story and of course, plays with comedic and romantic nuances to give the film its flavor. The story continues with Gil discovering more of the city’s past and realizing that he has to make certain changes to his life in order to live his dream. The soundtrack to this film helps us transport back to the 1920s ourselves and sets the mood for the beautiful and vivacious city of Paris.

The first track “Let’s Do It” is a classic Cole Porter tune sung by Conal Fowkes. Fowke’s truly captures Porter’s jazz piano sound. “You’ve Got That Thing” is another Cole Porter song sung by Fowkes. It has the same mood as the previous song full of humor and upbeat staccato coming from the piano. “You Do Something to Me” is the third Porter tune sung again by Fowkes. All three of these Porter songs add to the lively and gleeful atmosphere of Paris. “Barcarolle from “The Tales of Hoffman”” is a composition by Jacques Offenbach performed by Conal Fowkes. The song has a gentle sway, predominately played with the violin. The next track, “Can-can” is another Offenbach composition from “Orpheus in the Underworld”. Although Offenbach was a French composer who lived in the nineteenth century, the song is another treasure in French style music which only makes it a worthwhile addition to the soundtrack. “”Parlez-moi d’amour” is a composition by Dana Boule. It’s a sweet Paris-tinged tune full of accordion. The next track, “I Love Penny Sue” by Daniel May is a mellow jazz piano instrumental. It keeps the flow to the whole album. “Charleston” by Enoch Light and The Charleston City All Stars is a fun swing like tune that takes you back to the sound of the 1920s. “Ain’t She Sweet” is another composition by Enoch Light and The Charleston City All Stars. It has a similar jazzy feel to it. “Ballad du Paris” by Francois Parisi is another accordion based tune that sets the mood for the ambiance of Paris. “Le parc de plaisir” is another track by Francois Parisi. “La conga blicoti” performed by Josephine Baker is the first tune to feature French singing. It has a 1920s feel with swing percussion and dance like sound. “Recado” by Original Paris Swing is a mellow, jazzy samba and fits well to the scenes of Paris. “Si tu vois ma mere” by Sidney Bechet is another jazz tune featuring mostly wind instruments that gives more of the jazz sound of that era. “Bistro Fada” by Stephane Wrembel is one of the highlights of the soundtrack and is featured quite frequently throughout the film as Gil Pender waits for the antique car to take him back in time. It has a Django Reinhardt influence and is perfect for the whole flow of the film. The soundtrack ends with Je suis seule ce soir” by Rose Noel and Jean Casanova is another jazzy featuring guitar and violin. All the tracks off this soundtrack are not necessarily compiled to be in a particular order as all of them are heard through various scenes within the film.

Woody Allen once again compiled the perfect album for this film. He is known to look for the best cast and the best musicians to contribute major parts to his films. As he jokingly puts it “I take all the credit in the end”. Although this soundtrack with worth listening to, the film is the best place to start. Midnight in Paris was filmed in Paris in its entirety. It’s a riveting film that I continue to watch as it never becomes tedious. Besides the stunning scenery, the lively, comedic and unique dynamics between all the characters and the interesting storyline, the soundtrack is one of the most important features of the film that helps stimulate the whole ambiance of the story and where it’s set. As a side note, actor Corey Stoll who plays as Ernest Hemingway and gives a stunning performance is a graduate of Oberlin College. So show some school spirit and go watch the film if you haven’t already!

-Amirata Mahallati

4 thoughts on “Album Review: Various Artists – Music From Midnight in Paris- A Film by Woody Allen”

  1. Thank you, Thank you.. This is a wonderful review! The film, as well as the soundtrack, have a timeless feel. Truly evokes an emotion that we rarely have the opportunity to feel. Then again, it's the work of Woody Allen! No reason for shock.

  2. Not to be a boar, but the soundtrack was so same song heavy, with the django guitar track, it was like Groundhog day, to the point of I was looking around the corner, dreading the idea, that it was going to show up again. "let's fall in love" showing up two or three times does not make sense.
    I am watching the movie as I write, and that damn guitar song is playing again for the 47th million time!
    I can honestly say, I have never, ever, disenjoyed a soundtrack less than this.
    A soundtrack should be seamless, non-intrusive, and subtle. This was anything but.

  3. How can you say such things? My husband and I just watched this movie last night on tv, and enjoyed the the whole sound track! Can one get too much of Cole Porter ? I don’t think so! In addition we loved the guitar music with the Django style! It lent itself particularly well to the story and the atmosphere of Paris. The original pictorial scenes of Paris were like paintings come to life! Did you miss all that beauty? I could go on, but I think you get my feelings on your review. Watch it again with a more open mind, please!

  4. @Gary Blue

    I think I know where you are coming from. However, what Woody Allen was doing with the film, was as much homage to the time and place as it was anything else. Music was a significant part of Paris life at that time, and so the soundtrack had to reflect that.

    Additionally, it won the Grammy for best soundtrack compilation, so what do you know? 😉

    Perhaps I am biased, because I was on the soundtrack, but there you go.

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