Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen, 94 mins (12A)
Perfect Sense, David Mackenzie, 90 mins (15)

Let me take you back to a golden age when we all loved Woody

In Midnight in Paris, the hero slips back in time to an era he reveres as a golden age, and there are moments when the film itself weaves a similar spell on the viewer.

If you're a Woody Allen fan, it can whisk you back to the period when Allen was a writer-director to cherish, and he hadn't made any of the half-hearted farragos we've been watching through our fingers for the past decade or so.

Its hero is a screenwriter (Owen Wilson) who's on holiday in Paris with his fiancée (Rachel McAdams). While she sees the sights with an oily friend (Michael Sheen), Wilson is nagged by the feeling that he's wasting his life churning out blockbusters in Beverly Hills, and that he should be polishing his novel in a Left Bank garret instead. (Only in a Woody Allen film would a man be dissatisfied by having a blooming Hollywood career and McAdams on his arm.) And then, one evening after a wine-tasting, he totters along a boulevard and into the roaring Twenties. To his stupefied delight, he finds himself drinking champagne with F Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston), Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates) and a flirtatious beauty (Marion Cotillard) who's being fought over by Picasso and Hemingway. Best of all, he can make the same trip through time every night.

The Woody Allen who made The Purple Rose of Cairo might have looked beneath the glittering surface of the Jazz Age, but Midnight in Paris doesn't present the Twenties as anything other than a writer's paradise. It's an airy, creamy profiterole of a film – and that could be why it's done better box office in the United States than any of Allen's previous, more cynical work.

As frivolous as it is, the glowing cinematography, the postcard settings and the rhapsodic dialogue all convey the director's swooning adoration of Paris with a force that's hard to resist. But the masterstroke is the casting of Owen Wilson. As a tall, blond, laid-back Texan, he's hardly the obvious Allen surrogate, and yet he's charming and funny, and he has no trouble embodying the film's starry-eyed romanticism. When Wilson realises that he's in the presence of Cole Porter, his face lights up as if he can't quite believe it, but he's eager to give in to the fantasy. By the end of the film, you might know how he feels.

Perfect Sense features another of the pandemics which the movies have been pummelling us with lately, but it's less an apocalyptic disaster movie than an indie drama about two people learning to accept true love. It stars Ewan McGregor as a womanising chef in a Glasgow restaurant, and Eva Green as an epidemiologist, a job which consists largely of announcing that she's an epidemiologist. Just as they find each other, the world's populace starts losing its senses, one by one. At first their sense of smell fades away. And then, once people get used to the idea that their noses don't do much except give their specs somewhere to rest, they start to lose their sense of taste, too. It's bad news for a chef, but not as bad as the fear that the disease hasn't finished with the human race yet.

Despite its meagre budget, Perfect Sense has some arresting scenes of social collapse, but the looting and the burnt-out buses are secondary to the script's musings on the ways we soldier on in a crisis. It's a melancholy fable that isn't afraid of being pretentious – and that's often what it is – as long as it can be haunting and lyrical, too. And it could have audiences savouring the tang of their popcorn like never before.

Next Week:

Nicholas Barber buys Morgan Spurlock's comic-documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold

Also Showing: 09/10/2011

Johnny English Reborn (101 mins, PG)

It's not a film that any of us have been clamouring for, but Rowan Atkinson's spy-spoof sequel is an improvement on the original Johnny English. Children should enjoy it.

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (98 mins, 15)

Boringly repetitive potboiler about goblins preying on the occupants of a gothic mansion (including Guy Pearce and Katie Holmes). It's a let-down for a film co-written and "presented" by Guillermo del Toro.

Four Days in Guantanamo (99 mins)

Documentary built around harrowing CCTV footage of a teenager, Omar Khadr, being interrogated by Canadian intelligence agents in Guantanamo Bay.

The Lion King 3D (89 mins, U)

Disney's latest method of wringing more money from its classic cartoons is to reissue them in 3D. And it works. The Lion King 3D has made a fortune in the US.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Caral Barat of The Libertines performs on stage at British Summer Time Festival at Hyde Park

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ariana Grande and Iggy Azalea perform on stage at the Billboard Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Zina Saro-Wiwa

art
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice