LEARNING GUIDE TO:
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
SUBJECTS — Literature/U.S.; Visual Arts; Music; World/France;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.
USING MIDNIGHT IN PARIS IN THE CLASSROOM
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.
LEARNING GUIDE MENU
SUGGESTIONS FOR USING MIDNIGHT IN PARIS IN THE CLASSROOM
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."
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.
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. . . .
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