There is no doubt in anyone’s mind when watching the montage that opens Woody Allen’s new film, Midnight In Paris, that the director is in love with the City of Lights. In the light of day, the camera pans across French cafes, cobblestone streets, bridges, and flea markets. It’s the Paris that tourists love.

Yet, for an idealized Paris, it is best to visit it by night… at the stroke of midnight. It is at that time that Allen’s idealized Paris comes to life much the same way that Manhattan has been a city that only exists in his mind, though a lovely and romantic one it turns out to be. By the end of that montage, though, we are also in love with Paris, too.

Allen does a wonderful job of conveying all the charm and beauty of the city through Gil (Owen Wilson), who takes the place of Mr. Woody Allen on camera, and makes it his own, complete with charisma and boyish charm. Gil is a successful hack writer in Hollywood, but yearns to take a stab at writing a novel. His fiancé Inez (Rachel McAdams) would rather he stick to his Hollywood gig so they can afford the luxuries she’s best accustomed to.

While Gil would rather walk the streets, get lost and explore the city, Inez would rather surround herself with pretentiousness in the form of an ex-love named Paul (Michael Sheen). Strolling the streets, half-drunk and giddy, Gil inadvertently enters a world that’s slightly a few decades behind by way of a 1920s Roadster that takes him to a magical place.

In his most inventive film since 1985’s The Purple Rose of Cairo, Allen has constructed a world in which fantasy and reality blur together to create a hybrid sense of reality that forces our hero to examine whether he was born too late and would be much happier in a by-gone era or if, perhaps, this is a vicious circle that all artists through time grapple with at some point in their creative lives. It’s that illusion that our lives would be so much better had we lived in a different era that can draw us to our own demise like moths to a flame.

Unlike the small-town waitress Cecilia in The Purple Rose of Cairo, whose world of movie characters invades her life and leaves her sad and lonely at the end, Midnight In Paris has a more upbeat feel to it. It is Allen’s most hopeful film to date. It is exactly what a Romantic Comedy should be, but hasn’t been seen on the screen since… well, 1985. It’s inventive, smart without being brainy, and funny. Even when we’re bombarded with a director’s deep sense of nostalgia, it is a film that makes us reflect while we laugh.