There he stumbles across a portal in time, which Gil accesses each night at the stroke of midnight, that allows him to step into the Parisian Golden Age of the 1920s, when the city’s bars and cafés were haunted by artistic giants such as Ernest Hemingway (Corey Stoll), F Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody) and Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates). Suitably inspired, Gil finds that his writing is vastly improved, particularly when he encounters Adriana (Marion Cotillard), lover of artists and Gil’s muse-in-waiting.
Woody Allen’s latest offering is yet another bitter-sweet love story, or rather love stories plural: Gil’s burgeoning romance with Adriana goes hand-in-hand with his falling head-over-heels for Paris, with Allen’s cameras ravishing both actress and city. It’s a fantastical tale, of course, and simultaneously something of a modern fairytale that celebrates the magic of filmmaking, and the possibilities of the imagination, while still having fun at the expense of those who insist on viewing the past through rose-tinted glasses. Wilson makes for a perfect Everyman as he bumbles and stumbles from present to past, suitably awed by the reputations of the greats he encounters, yet never so star-struck that he can’t have a little fun with his outrageous stroke of good fortune. There’s a very strong chemistry between he and Cotillard too, her smouldering intensity a counterpoint to his laidback slacker style, while the characterisations of the famous artists are affectionately drawn larger-than-life exaggerations. Allen winds up in appropriately happy-ever-after fashion, and it would take a hard heart indeed to begrudge Gil his happiness, or Allen his long-awaited return to form.
EQUALLY fantastic is Perfect Sense (15A), a downbeat tale of apocalypse. Scientist Susan (Eva Green) meets chef Michael (Ewan McGregor): she’s on the rebound, he’s a caddish ladies’ man. Their tentative romance, however, is overshadowed by the early stages of what appears to be a rather benign epidemic, in which people all over the world lose their sense of smell. It’s an oddity, of course, but people learn to cope — until the other senses begin to go too. David Mackenzie’s film isn’t a typical tale of global breakdown, eschewing the usual scenes of mass hysteria to concentrate on the human, emotional impact of an inexplicable and irresistible contagion. In effect, Susan and Michael’s relationship is the prism through which we are invited to view the end of humanity, and the film is hugely enhanced both by the believable chemistry between the pair and the fact that they are as individuals all too human, prone to petty bickering and personal failings. It’s an intense, claustrophobic experience, one in which the helplessness of the protagonists is very effectively communicated. As compassionate as it is clever, Perfect Sense is a heartbreaking tale of love and ultimate loss.
SENSATION (18s) stars Domhnall Gleeson as Donal, a young man who goes into business as a pimp in rural Tipperary after he meets a New Zealand escort girl, Kim (Luanne Gordon). Ostensibly a pitch-black comedy, Tom Hall’s film functions equally well on a number of levels, but particularly as a scabrous commentary on the dysfunctional Irish attitude towards sex, and as a dark fable about how a recession can impact on the personal level. Gleeson is terrific as the shy, awkward lad who blossoms into a ruthless exploiter of women, and he gets very strong support from Gordon. In what has been a very fine year for Irish film, Sensation is one of the bravest and hardest hitting offerings of the year.
THE 3D element is superfluous; The Lion King (PG), with its echoes of Hamlet, is one of the most enduring of Disney’s recent releases. That it features cartoon lions matters not a whit; this is epic story-telling that earns its right to describe itself as entertainment for all the family, and it deserves to be seen on the big screen.