A Critique on “The Kugelmass Episode” and “Midnight in Paris”
Time travel is the concept of moving between different points in time in a manner similar to moving between different points in space. It involves moving backward into the past or a moment earlier than the starting point, or into the future without the need for the traveler to experience the intervening period. Time travelling is known to be an impossible feat even with today’s technology. Woody Allen’s “The Kugelmass Episode” and “Midnight in Paris” describes what happens when one has the power to travel through time.
Woody Allen was born on December 1, 1935, as Allen Konigsberg, in Brooklyn, New York. He was an American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician whose career spans over half a century. As a young boy he became intrigued with magic tricks and playing the clarinet, two hobbies that he continues today. At age of 15, he started writing jokes for a local newspaper. He later moved on to write jokes for talk shows but soon stopped. He was convinced to be a stand-up comedian and became very successful. After working a while as a stand-up comedian, he was hired to write “What’s New Pussycat” (1965). He directed his first film a year later, “What's Up, Tiger Lily?” (1966). He first specialized in comedies before moving into more dramatic material influenced by European art films.
Midnight in Paris took place in both 21st century and 20th century Paris, with a short portion during late 19th century. It was described that during the 20th century, Paris was at its finest. There was a very notable difference shown in the film between the 21st and the 20th century in Paris. Its people and their lifestyle were very different. Art had a very powerful effect on the people’s lives. The difference in its atmosphere, especially in the field of art, played a very important role in the main actor’s life.
The Kugelmass Episode took place in New York, although in what era it took was not mentioned. The story seems to take place in modern-day New York.
Midnight in Paris is a romantic fantasy comedy film directed by Woody Allen. Taking place in Paris, the film follows Gil Pender, a screenwriter, who is forced to confront the shortcomings of his relationship with his fiancée and their divergent goals, which become increasingly exaggerated as he travels back in time each night at midnight. At his first time travel, after the clock struck midnight, an old car, dating back to 1920 draws up beside him, and the passengers, dressed in 1920s clothing, urged him to join them. This is where he met Alice B. Toklas, Cole Porter, Josephine Baker, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. He also met Ernest Hemmingway who later brought him to Gertrude Stein. All of them were writers, artist, composers whom he idolizes so much. Ernest Hemmingway agreed to show Gil’s novel to Gertrude Stein and give her opinion on it. However, on his way back to the hotel to get his manuscripts, he found himself back into the present Paris.
Gil attempts to bring Inez to the past with him the following night, but while they wait, she gets bored and returns to the hotel. When the clock struck midnight, the same car drove up again, now with Hemmingway inside it. He took him to Gertrude Stein to review his works. He was also introduced to Pablo Picasso and Picasso's mistress Adriana. Over the next few days, Gil spends each night in the past. His late-night wanderings frustrate Inez, who cannot understand his interest in Paris or his desire to write a novel, and arouse the suspicion of her father, who hires a detective to follow Gil.
Gil spends increasing amounts of time with Adriana, who leaves Picasso and has a brief romance with Hemingway. Gil realizes that he is falling in love with her, leaving him conflicted and confused. He tells his difficulty to Salvador Dalí, Man Ray and Luis Buñuel, but being surrealists they consider his position to be totally normal and see nothing strange about his coming from the future.
While Inez and Gil were shopping for furniture, Gil meets Gabrielle, an antiques dealer who shares his fondness for the twenties and the music of Cole Porter. Gil later discovers Adriana's diary from the 1920s in a book stall and purchases it, in attempt to know what could possibly happen next. He read that she dreamt of receiving a gift of earrings from him and then making love to him, Gil attempts to steal a pair of earrings from Inez to give to Adriana but is thwarted by Inez's early return from a trip.
Gil purchases earrings for Adriana and, returning to the past, declares his love for her. As they kiss, they are invited inside a horse-drawn carriage by a richly-dressed couple and are transported back to the 1890s Belle Époque, an era Adriana considers Paris's Golden Age. They are taken to Maxim's Paris, and eventually to the Moulin Rouge where they meet Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and Edgar Degas. When Gil asks what they thought the best era was, the three determine that the greatest era was the Renaissance. The fascinated Adriana is offered a job designing ballet costumes, and proposes to Gil that they stay. Gil, however, realizes that despite the attraction of homesickness, it is better to accept the present for what it is. Adriana elects to stay in the 1890s, and they part.
Gil retrieves his novel from Stein, who praises his progress as a writer but questions why the main character has not realized that his fiancée is having an affair with a pedantic character. Gil returns to 2010 and confronts Inez. She admits to sleeping with Paul, but dismisses it as a meaningless fling. Inez's parents agree with Gil when he tells her that they are not right for each other, prompting Inez's father to confess that he had Gil followed, though the detective mysteriously disappeared. Gil breaks up with Inez and decides to remain in Paris. Taking a walk at midnight, he meets Gabrielle and, after it starts to rain, offers to walk her home and learns that she shares his love of Paris in the rain.
The Kugelmass Episode is a story of a professor who was unhappily married for a second time. Longing to meet a new woman and have an affair, he went to his analyst to consult; only to find out what he needs is a magician. A few weeks later, Kugelmass received a call from a magician who calls himself, the great Perksy. He offers Kugelmass a little exotica in his life. A few moments later, he went to where the magician was calling from. He thought that he was going to regret this before he entered the room where the magician was.
He found cheap-looking Chinese cabinet, badly lacquered, in the room. The magician told him to choose a woman from a book whom he wants to meet and step inside the box. Kugelmass suspected that Persky was a scam, but he still tried his little trick. He wanted to meet a French lover, he chose Emma Bovary from Flaubert’s novel. He stepped inside the box and magically found himself in front of Emma Bovary.
To make a long story short, he soon found himself in love with Emma. His wife was also suspicious on where he was going all the time. One time, he decided to bring Emma to his time. They spent a blissful weekend, with Kugelmass savoring each minute. When the time came for Emma to go back, Persky’ little box didn’t work. A whole week has passed and still the box didn’t work. Emma told him if he can’t bring her back to the novel, he’ll have to marry her. Already desperate, Kugelmass went to Persky; however Persky still hadn’t fixed his box. Things weren’t going fine for Kugelmass.
One Sunday afternoon, Kugelmass was already thinking about committing suicide but he thought that he was too low. He started thinking of ways to escape, when suddenly, the phone rang and Persky was on the other side. He told him the box was fixed. Kugelmass immediately brought Emma to him and put her in the box. A moment later, she was gone. Kugelmass said that he learned his lesson, he’ll never cheat again.
Three weeks later, Kugelmass reappeared in front of Persky’ room. He wanted a new journey, sex and romance. He wanted Portnoy’s Complaint. Persky tossed in a copy of Portnoy's Complaint and rapped three times on the box. This time, instead of a popping noise there was a dull explosion, followed by a series of crackling noises and a shower of sparks. Persky leaped back, was seized by a heart attack, and dropped dead. The cabinet burst into flames, and eventually the entire house burned down. Kugelmass, unaware of what happened, was transported to an old textbook, Remedial Spanish.
For me, the main element in both stories which lingered in my mind after reading and watching it was its plot. Both stories share an almost the same plot, and the idea of using time travelling as the main engine of the plot is also uncommon in most movies and novels.
Both stories share some similarity. Both of them revolved around the idea of travelling back in time. In Midnight in Paris, the main actor went back in time to meet his idols through a mysterious car that drives up every midnight. In the Kugelmass episode, time travelling was depicted by Persky’ little box which transported anyone in it to the time in the book. Both of them also shows that the main actor was able to know what would happen next by using a book, in Midnight in Paris, Adriana’s diary, and in The Kugelmass Episode, Flaubert’s novel. Both of them also ended up having troubles with the present time, especially with their wives.
critics, suggestions and recommendations are welcome :D thanks