Midnight in Paris
By Moshe Katz

September 29, 2011

Midnight in Paris Written and Directed by Woody Allen

I have always been a fan of Woody Allen's movies, from the early comic films to the later introspective journeys. These days I hardly watch any films, other than on the plane.

When I noticed a Woody Allen film, I asked the flight attendant for a cup of coffee, (not bad actually) and sat back (does one have a choice on the plane?) to enjoy the movie.

When it was over I was overcome with thoughts, I felt a need to write them down…on whatever paper I could find….

Back to the flight

I am on the plane, just watched a Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris". I have always admired Woody's creativity, expansive way of thinking, and challenging approach. Much like my dear father of blessed memory, he challenges us to think, to reevaluate; to see things from a different angle, to open our minds to possibilities previously unthought-of.

Without revealing the story line, an American man on a trip to Paris has his sense of reality challenged. He is thrust into a situation where the dividing line between reality and fantasy become blurred, where a new approach to thinking, to living, emerges.

We are so limited by our own world view, by our paradigms, whether created by us or inherited, that we usually are incapable of seeing anything beyond this paradigm. As Bruce Lee wrote in terms of martial arts, we are trapped in a cage which we have chosen to enter. Even if we leave this cage, as we find it does not meet our needs, we only move to another cage. Bruce Lee wanted to break free of all cages. With IKI (Israeli Krav International) we aim to do the same.

Our innovations in Krav Maga, now being taught to police, military and civilians around the world, are the result of our innovative thinking. We break out of all cages and just ask…what if this happened, what if that happened. We are open to all possibilities; we challenge every technique and idea. We break new ground in our thinking and our training.

In this thought provoking film, Allen shows that sometimes by embracing the possibility that the fantasy just might be real – we open ourselves up to a real reality that otherwise would not have been possible. By breaking down our paradigm we open ourselves up to endless possibilities. We are not logically committed to these new options, we are not making any decisions – we are just allowing their existence into our expanding world. As John Lennon wrote, these ideas are "caressing and possessing" us. (Across the Universe)

Our character, Gil Pender, is living a seemingly good and happy life. He is on vacation in Paris with a beautiful woman but he is filled with fear and anxiety, (and always carries pills to deal with these problems). When he abandons caution and gets into an old Peugeot that unexpectedly stops for him – all sorts of possibilities open up for him.

He did not know where this car was going. At first he thought it was a case of mistaking identity, but he gets in the car. He asks, "Where are you taking me to?" indeed if we take risks in life we can always wonder, "Where is this taking me to?"

Gil meets many great artistic figures from the past; artists, writers, composers and singers who have since past from this life. He sees them alive and in their creative prime. Hemingway chats with him about life and literature, Gertrude Stein critics his work. These encounters challenge him to finally start on the path to the man he wants to be.

Hemingway challenges him to a boxing match. He tells him that every writer must strive to be the best, must believe he is the best. He says you need to say I am the best, the very best of them all, and believe it! "Declare it" he says, without doubt.

Hemingway teaches the young writer that to truly live, love and write you must first lose the fear of losing your life. He speaks of war and combat and glory, of living to the fullest. Hemingway finds it surprising that a man should fear death, "All men have done it before you and all men will do it after you." To truly live, to be creative, you must lose any fear of death, rejection, or failure; these are all illusions that hold us back from achieving our true self.

Gil also discovers that much of life is as we chose to see it. He longs for the great era of Paris in the 20's while Adriana, who actually lives in the 20's in Paris, longs for the golden era of 1890, before cars, when people traveled in horse and buggy. The artists they meet in the 1890's long for the great era of the Renaissance.

Gradually Gil lets go of the "reality" of his current life for the reality of the life he is now experiencing. As he leaves his former life he is able to find true love without seeing his path clearly before him, without mapping out his future direction, without knowing "how it will end". The film ends with no conclusion, only possibilities.

The woman he meets in the past, whom he falls in love with, was not the answer to his life quest but freed him from previous limitations and preconceptions. It is not about finding someone to solve your problems but about being someone whom you can live with; allowing yourself to be someone. There is no answer, there is only openness to possibilities; allowing those possibilities to play themselves out.

Gils' pre-Paris life was marked by compromise and self-doubt. He did not respect what he was doing, he did not really connect with his fiancé or in-laws but he went along with it because it "seemed right" and was the accepted thing to do.

Midnight in Paris – After midnight strange things, not of this world, begin to happen. After a certain threshold in life certain things begin to unfold in a new way.

As in some of his other films, Allen ends the film with no real ending. There are no conclusions, only possibilities. He does not make the decision for us, that would be too easy, but challenges us to take responsibility for our own lives and make our own decisions. As a friend advised me, no one can truly make our decisions for us, that is our responsibility. We cannot pass this burden on to a guru, parent, or teacher, or film maker.

Many of us prefer to go to sleep before the clock strikes midnight, we prefer the comfort of our warm beds to the streets of Paris. But at midnight...all sorts of possibilities open up.

When I stayed in Paris in September, 2011 I was on this street. Much like our character in the film I was frequently lost. On one occasion a nice woman named Vanessa spent one and half hours (and about 3-4 cigarettes) with me, until we (she) found the hotel.

A magical place indeed.