The Artist’s Job Is to Find an Antidote for the Emptiness of Existence: French Luxury Bags in Midnight in Paris and Some Time-Travelling

In the mid 9o I was lucky enough to attend a course of cinema history at university: it was about Woody Allen. I had rarely watched his movies before, but I had the chance to make up for that: we watched ALL his movies [1], from Take the Money and Run (1969) to Mighty Aphrodite (1995). I fell in love with some of his works (I’m particularly fond of the late 70s-80s period), so I’m always excited when a new Allen movie comes out. I must admit I have never watched most of the movies he directed in 2000s, but I want to see them all, sooner or later.

His latest work – Midnight in Paris – was presented at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2011, and has quickly become very successful: the magical setting, the all-star cast, the incredible time travel are elements which have a great appeal on the audience. I’m a hopeless nostalgic and I’ve got a passion for Anglo-American literature, so you can imagine the impression it made on me. I watched the movie in complete awe, also thanks to the impressive eye candy that Allen provided to designer bag lovers like me.

Three of the main characters – Inez (Rachel McAdams), her mother Helen (Mimi Kennedy) and her friend Carol (Nina Arianda) – sport great bags and luggage by French luxury labels. Though different from each other, they are symbols of American upper class – active, rich, refined, understated, focused on money, “exotic” purchases and activities; pragmatic women who clearly don’t understand the importance of dreaming and dismiss it as madness or a waste of time and energies.

Inez is the soon-to-be bride of the protagonist, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson). She’s the classic American beauty: she has a simple yet refined style, which includes expensive statement bags. The first bag she sports in the opening scene is a Chanel piece – a chain strap tote from the spring 2010 collection.


It’s the Grand Shopping, a very practical bag, perfect with many different outfits, as shown by Inez, who pairs it with shirt dresses, jeans and t-shirts (and with a Chanel tweed jacket, too).

Another classic bag she carries is the Lady Dior Cannage mini bag in black. She uses it only once, with a simple silk slip dress.

During their stay in Paris, the protagonists live at the Hotel Le Bristol (the same hotel where Woody Allen stayed during the filming): in their room, many designer luggage can be seen. In the screencap above, for example, we are introduced to another French luxury brand – Goyard. Inez owns a trunk (an old-fashioned and elegant piece of luggage, somehow reminiscent of the past that Gil loves so much) and a white cosmetic pouch.

In one of the funniest scenes – Gil is ready to meet the woman he has fallen in love with, Adriana (Marion Cotillard), who lives in the 1920s, but Inez and her parents unexpectedly come back from Mont Saint-Michel – we see another Goyard item. It’s the lovely jewellery box from where Gil has taken a pair of earrings to give Adriana.

Earlier in the story, when Inez and her parents are ready to go to Mont Saint-Michel, we can also see a Goyard white train case and trolley and a Croisiere duffle bag.

In the first scene set at the hotel where Inez and Gil meet her parents, I spotted another Goyard bag on a hotel guest – a Comores tote bag.Sonia Grande, the costume designer of the movie, knows Hermés bags are among the most coveted bags in the world, so she made a selection of gorgeous Hermés pieces for us to lust over.

Inez carries a lovely Constance shoulder bag in the scene where she’s waiting for Gil’s “big surprise”: he wants her to time travel with him, but she leaves before the “time capsule” arrives.

This bag is stunning! I’ve always thought I’m a Kelly lover, but now I can safely say I’m a Constance lover, too. I like statement bags in bright colours, but the caramel shade of Inez’s Constance is to die for.

Inez owns Hermès luggage, too. In the scene where she’s leaving with her parents, I spotted a HAC (Haut à Courroies) in canvas and leather.

I also spotted a Victoria travel bag, featuring the combination canvas/leather again. Impressive luggage set, isn’t it?

Helen, Inez’s mother, is a Birkin lover, which is not coincidental. She’s a pragmatic woman, who believes in money and understatement; she doesn’t flaunt her wealth with over-the-top accessories, but still carries bags which are status symbols. She carries two 30 cm Birkins in the movie: one of them is made of crocodile.

The second one is made of Togo leather (the shade is Etoupe, a beautiful taupe grey) and has palladium hardware.

Carol is the wife of Paul (Michael Sheen), the most disagreeable character, an American professor who is in Paris to hold lectures at the Sorbonne University. His knowledge about art, history and literature is apparently boundless, and he’s an expert in French wines, too. Carol is presented as a shallow woman, who pronounces French words wrong and who totally goes along with her husband’s wishes. In most scenes, she carries a cute small shoulder bag, worn cross body, but in the screencap above a gorgeous Hermés Jige clutch can be seen.

As I have already explained, I loved the movie for its incredible time travelling: Gil is lucky enough to meet an incredible number of great artists, geniuses from different countries who came to Paris to enjoy its cultural liveliness.  When he steps into the house of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, I must admit I jumped on my seat. I felt a weird sensation, like stepping into the pages of a book I love very much.

I’m referring to Album Hemingway, published in November 1988, a photographic book collecting pictures of Ernest Hemingway, from his birth to his death. The years he lived in Paris – from 1921 to 1928 – are well documented.

The picture above was taken by Man Ray in the early 20s: Toklas and Stein were in the study of their Parisian house.

This is another portrait by Man Ray. On the walls of the sitting room there are many paintings by contemporary artists who frequently visited Stein and Toklas. Stein was a writer herself who greatly influenced people like Pablo Picasso (who painted her portrait in 1906), Georges Braque, Sherwood Anderson, Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway. She was the one who coined the term “lost generation” to speak about the American artists who left their country to live in Europe. Hemingway explained the origin of the term in A Moveable Feast, a book of memoirs he published in December 1964.

In the picture above, we can see other two American personalities who lived in Europe for some time, the epitome of genius, beauty, luxury and trouble – Zelda and Francis Scott Fitzgerald. Their presence in the movie tinges everything with a dramatic and eccentric mood, a special carelessness that the other characters don’t have.

Beautiful bags, amazing locations, an incredible journey back to the past: Midnight in Paris gives you the chance to daydream, to experience something impossible to achieve but fascinating nonetheless. Do you agree with me?

[1] He made his debut as a director in 1966 with What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, but my course didn’t include it.

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13 comments

  1. Spero di andare presto a vedere questo film,continuo a sentire pareri molto positivi.
    Il perfetto set da viaggio?:
    Goyard per i viaggi aerei
    Valextra vitello bianco per tutti gli altri.

    A.

    1. Te lo consiglio: è divertente e molto ben fatto, e poi fa sognare ad occhi aperti!

      Ohhh, le Valextra (non solo valigie e bagagli, ma anche le borse) sono bellissime, molto classiche ed eleganti.

  2. Terry, questo genere di post in cui sei “fashion investigator” mi fa impazzire!
    Sono stata al cinema a vedere il film e devo dire che avevo riconosciuto la maggior parte delle borse in questione; non avevo però identificato la Chanel di Ines e la pochette di Carol! Incredibili!
    Carolina

    1. Ehehehe, in certi casi è una cosa più forte di me! Pensa che durante l’intervallo mi sono annotata tutte le borse che ero riuscita a beccare nel primo tempo :)

  3. Il film è davvero bello ed è una delizia per gli occhi. Sono contenta ti sia piaciuto, come ti ho già detto, penso sia il miglior Allen, (paragonato, intendo, agli ultimi film che ha fatto). “Rivedere” il film attraverso il tuo post è quasi necessario per me, come al solito, riesci a cogliere dettagli che ai miei occhi sfuggono, non so come fai, ma meno male che ci sei ;)

    1. Hai ragione: i suoi ultimi film non sono piaciuti nemmeno a me (Vicky Cristina Barcelona poi è pessimo, secondo me), ma questo è così originale che è impossibile non innamorarsene! Se si è nostalgici, poi, a maggior ragione.

      Grazie mille. Leggere i tuoi commenti e i tuoi complimenti è sempre bello ♥

      1. A me invece Vicky Cristina Barcelona è piaciuto, mi ha fatto molto ridere. Questo vuoto esistenziale, questa ricerca continua di emozioni forti senza sentimenti, un bello specchio dei nostri tempi, a mio avviso.
        Ad ogni modo, a me Allen non ha mai deluso. Anche i film che lì per lì mi hanno lasciata un po’ freddina, rivedendoli mi sono piaciuti.

        Adesso, non vedo l’ora di vedere Midnight in Paris!

    2. Anche io, in generale, apprezzo i film di Woody Allen, ma VCB proprio no. Ho trovato poco in sintonia il terzetto Johannson/Cruz/Bardem, il tutto un po’ troppo sopra le righe in maniera artificiale.

  4. Io questo non l’ho visto (nn vado mai al cinema ;(( ) ma mi era già piaciuto Incontrerai l’uomo dei tuoi sogni, avevo pensato che Woody si fosse già ripreso dalla fase Scarlett o dark English movies.

    1. Io quello non l’ho visto, ma spero di riuscire a vederlo presto. La fase Scarlett non mi è dispiaciuta (Match Point e Scoop mi sono piaciuti, VCB no), ma effettivamente speravo che ne uscisse, prima o poi.

      Davvero non vai mai al cinema?

  5. ho aspettato golosamente di leggere questo post dopo aver visto il film (spero di scriverci su due righe anch’io – mi è piaciuto da matti per vari motivi). Grazie per l’album Hemingway!
    Fashion-wise, mi pare che in confronto con le stupende mises di Zelda e Adriana le donne del presente facciano una magra figura, pur con tutte le loro borse firmate (di per sé splendide, certo). Non so chi sia la costumista di Allen, ma mi piace come coglie la contemporaneità, i personaggi sono molto spontanei. Per esempio, quei vestiti camicia o t-shirt, i jeans elasticizzati non donano molto alla protagonista ma sono effettivamente quello che usa adesso; metterle qualcosa di più particolare avrebbe esagerato la connotazione positiva oppure negativa (comunque prevalente) del personaggio, finendo per appesantire il film che invece punta su altri elementi.
    (confrontare per contrasto con l’ultimo Gus Van Sant, per dire…)

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