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SUBJECTS — Literature/U.S.; Visual Arts; Music; World/France;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Romantic Relationships; Breaking Out;
Age: 14+; MPAA Rating; PG-13; 2011; 94 Minutes; Color. Available from Amazon.com.

Description: Hollywood screenwriter, Gil Pender, is trying to write a novel of literary significance. Vacationing in Paris with his fiancé and future in-laws, he is overwhelmed by nostalgia for the period of the Lost Generation, the 1920s, when brilliant American writers and visual artists from all over Europe lived and worked in Paris. While taking a midnight stroll Gil is magically transported to the 1920s where he meets Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Salvador Dali and other famous writers and artists of the period. Through these encounters Gil learns that he needs to change the course of his life and that although he must live in the present, he can shape his life according to the values that had drawn him into the past.

Rationale for Using the Movie: This film can provide benefits on at least three levels. It allows students to visualize famous writers and artists who worked in Paris during the 1920s. The story itself is valuable, raising the issue of how best to use the past. It can also serve to acquaint students with the City of Paris, one of the great cities of the world.

Objectives/Student Outcomes Using this Learning Guide: Student interest in studying the writings of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, as well as the paintings of Picasso, Dali and other artists of the 1920s will be increased. They will explore the question of the uses of the past. Students will sharpen their oral presentation and writing skills on the subjects explored in the film. Students will be introduced to the Lost Generation and to the City of Paris.

Possible Problems: None.


Note: The more that students know about the city of Paris and the Lost Generation, the more interest they will have in the movie. There are several ways to provide this information. If time allows, students can be asked to give short presentations to the class about Paris, the Lost Generation, and some of the writers, artists and other persons of note who are shown in the film. The presentations of the visual artists should show examples of their work. In the alternative, this information can be provided through a lecture. The assignment for students (which also provides a list of topics for the lecture) is set out below:
For Internet research, select one of the many writers, artists or topics referred to in the film. Create a presentation for your classmates in which you give biographical information and describe their work. For visual artists provide an examples of their work. Your presentation should be no more than five minutes long.

      • A brief history of the City of Paris concentrating on its role as a center for the arts

      • The Lost Generation of American writers who lived in Paris in the 1920s

      • F. Scott Fitzgerald

      • Zelda Fitzgerald

      • Ernest Hemingway (with a focus on Hemingway Dialog Selections)

      • Djuna Barnes

      • Gertrude Stein

      • Pablo Picasso

      • Jean Cocteau

      • T.S. Eliot

      • Luis Bunuel

      • Salvador Dali

      • Man Ray

      • Cole Porter

      • Auguste Rodin

      • ——

      • La Bélle Epoque

      • Toulouse Lautrec

      • Edgar Degas

      • Paul Gauguin - be sure to include his trips to Tahiti




Rationale and Objectives
Possible Problems
Parenting Points
Using the Movie in Class:
      Discussion Questions


Additional Discussion Questions:
      Subjects (Curriculum Topics)
      Social-Emotional Learning
      Moral-Ethical Emphasis
            (Character Counts)

Additional Assignments

Other Sections:
Selected Awards & Cast

WORKSHEETS: TWM offers the following worksheets to keep students' minds on the movie and direct them to the lessons that can be learned from the film. Teachers can modify the movie worksheets to fit the needs of each class. See also TWM's Movies as Literature Homework Project.



Discussion Questions:

1.  What is the difference between the world that Gil Pender inhabits in the present and the world that he sees in his midnight travels back in time? How does this relate to the theme of the movie? Suggested Response: There are many ways to describe the problems with the present: the people Gil is with are shallow; the world is all glitzy style and no substance; there is no passion to the world in which Gil lives. In the 1920s, Gil sees action, passion and a total devotion to art. He sees a period of time when creating was more important than selling. Students may note specific inspirational characters that he meets in these moments of magical realism. As to theme, Gil eventually realizes that he has no choice but to be in the present and that he must embrace the future, using inspiration and lessons from the past as they apply.

2.   Nostalgia is a sentimental longing for the past. In this film Gil Pender is nostalgic for the Paris of the 1920s. Paul, the man who sleeps with Gil's fiancé, is also quite knowledgeable about the past. Gil calls Paul a pedantic pseudo-intellectual. Paul, obviously with Gil in mind, has the following to say about nostalgia.

      PAUL: You know, nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present.

      INEZ: Oh, Gil is a complete romantic. He would be more than happy living in a complete state of perpetual denial.

      PAUL: And the name of this fallacy is called "golden-aged thinking."

      INEZ: Touche.

      PAUL: The erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one's living in. It's a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.
By the end of the movie, Gil's view of the 1920s has changed to some extent. He talks about a dream that he lived in the past when there were no antibiotics, dishwashers, or 911. What is the scriptwriter trying to tell us about the uses of the past. Suggested Response: Paul uses his knowledge about the past to impress people, but he has no passion for it and he does not really learn anything that is important to his life. Like Inez and her parents, Paul is shallow. Gil has a great passion for the past throughout the movie but by the end of the story he realizes that we must live in the present and that the proper use of the past is to take the lessons that it provides and use them to help us live well. The symbol for Gil using the knowledge of the past and putting it to good use in the present is that Gertrude Stein reads and comments on his book. Ms. Stein was famous for performing this function for writers of the Lost Generation.

3.   The Gertrude Stein character says, "It's the artist's job not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence." Gil Pender says that, "[I]t's my job as a writer to try and come up with reasons why despite life being tragic and unsatisfying, it's still worth it." Steve Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower describes art as a love song from the artist to the audience/reader. For him, the artist describes shared life experiences and feelings, which establishes a sense of community between people. He states that when he is able to do that, he feels infinite.1 There have been thousands of different ways that artists have described what they do. What do you think is the role of an artist? Explain your reasons. Suggested Response: There is no one correct response, the purpose of this question is to get students to think about the issue. Some students might say that the purpose of art is to express the beauty of existence; others might say that it is to provide new, interesting and/or beautiful interpretations of existence. Teachers might note the pessimism of both the statement by Pender and the statement by the Gertrude Stein character. This probably relates to the sense of despair after the First World War. Chbosky's idea is more optimistic.

For more Discussion Questions, click here.


Any of the discussion questions can serve as a writing prompt. Additional assignments include:

1.   If the students were not asked to make presentations on the topics listed in the Introduction section, they can be asked to make those presentations at the end of the movie. In the alternative, they can be assigned to research the various topics or people and write an essay about them.

2.   Thematically, the film is about distaste for the age in which we live and a desire to return to a better time. Write an analysis of this conflict, which is universal in modern cultures, as it is seen in the characters of Gil Pender and Adriana, Picasso's lover. What inspires these conflicts and how are they resolved.

3.   Have students create a poster with views of the City of Paris.

For more assignments, click here.

1At the end of the commentary to the movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower Mr. Chbosky discussed what writing the book and making the movie meant to him. The following is a paragrphase of what he said:
People tell say to me "It's like you understood what I felt." You know what's beautiful, if I understand how you feel it means that you understood how I feel. In the whole exchange, it's not important that I wrote it and you read it. It's not important if we [the cast and crew for the movie] made [the movie] and you watched it. What's important is that we have that thing in common, that thing that we understand. . . . At the end of the day we did this piece of art for you to see it. When hundreds of people get together to do one thing and it means something and that something comes back to you, that perfect circle of past, present and future, . . . at the end of the day, that is the thing that in making The Perks of Being a Wallflower that made me feel infinite. This movie is my love song to you. . . .

(These are not necessarily in any order.) Gigi, An American in Paris, Amélie, Before Sunset, Rififi, The Dreamers, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, Breathless, Funny Face, Paris Je T'Aime, Moulin Rouge, the Dreamers, Kiss, 2 Days in Paris, Children of Paradise, Last Tango in Paris, Ratatouille, Paris, Jefferson in Paris, Blue, The Aristocats, Love in the Afternoon. See also the Internet Movie Data Base list of Movie in Paries About Paris.

Select questions that are appropriate for your students.

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Parenting Points: Should your child be seeing the film outside of a class assignment, you may want to encourage him or her to explore the internet for visuals associated with the artists of the period and for details about the work of the writers mentioned.

Reminder to Teachers: Obtain all required permissions from your school administration before showing any film.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this movie can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

This is Learning Guide was published on May 5, 2013. It was written by Mary RedClay and James Frieden.

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