The characters referenced in Woody Allen’s movie “Midnight in Paris” (Part 32, Jean-Paul Sartre)

Recently I read a review of “Midnight in Paris” the latest Woody Allen movie that noted, “Many a writer or artist has longed to travel back in time to the sizzling Paris of the 1920’s to sip absinthe with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots ,” and that got me thinking. What other famous people were patrons of this famous restaurant through the years? Today I will be discussing Jean-Paul Sartre.


I am really reaching at this point. Up until this point I have really been trying to only talk about the characters that Woody Allen referenced in his latest movie “Midnight in Paris.” However, now I am stepping over the line and talking about famous philosophers who ate regularly at Les Deux Magots which is featured in the movie. So be it.

Les Deux Magots (French pronunciation: [le dø maɡo]) is a famous[1] café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, France. It once had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city. It is now a popular tourist destination. Its historical reputation is derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists, intellectuals such as Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre, and young writers, such as Ernest Hemingway. Other patrons included Albert Camus and Pablo Picasso.

The Deux Magots literary prize has been awarded to a French novel every year since 1933.

File:Statues, Les Deux Magots, Paris.JPG

The name originally belonged to a fabric and novelty shop at nearby 23 Rue de Buci. The shop sold silk lingerie and took its name from a popular play of the moment (1800s) entitled Les Deux Magots de la Chine (Two Figurines from China.)[2] In 1873 the business transferred to its current location in the Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In 1884 the business changed to a café and liquoriste, keeping the name.

Auguste Boulay bought the business in 1914, when it was on the brink of bankruptcy, for 400,000 francs (anciens). The present manager, Catherine Mathivat, is his great-great-granddaughter.

Sartre’s worldview is discussed in the film series “How should we then live?” by Francis Schaeffer below.

Transcript from “How Should we then live?”:

Humanist man beginning only from himself has concluded that he is only a machine. Humanist man has no place for a personal God, but there is also no place for man’s significance as man and no place for love, no place for freedom.

Man is only a machine, but the men who hold this position could not and can not live like machines. If they could then modern man would not have his tensions either in his intellectual position or in his life, but he can’t. So they leap away from reason to try to find something that gives meaning to their lives, to life itself, even though to do so they deny their reason.

Once this is done any type of thing could be put there. Because in the area of nonreason, reason gives no basis for a choice. This is the hallmark of modern man. How did it happen? It happened because proud humanist man, though he was finite, insisted in beginning only from himself and only from what he could learn and not from other knowledge, he did not succeed. Perhaps the best known of existentialist philosophers was Jean Paul Sartre. He used to spend much of his time here in Paris at the Les Deux Magots.

Sartre’s position is in the area of reason everything is absurd, but one can authenticate himself, that is give validity to his existence by an act of the will. In Sartre’s position one could equally help an old woman across the street or run her down.

Reason was not involved, and there was nothing to show the direction this authentication by an act of the will should take. But Sartre himself could live consistantly with his own position. At a certain point he signed the Algerian Manifesto which declared that the Algerian war was a dirty war. This action meant that man could use his reason to decide that some things were right and some things were wrong and so he destroyed his own system.

How Should We then Live Episode 7 small (Age of Nonreason)

#02 How Should We Then Live? (Promo Clip) Dr. Francis Schaeffer

10 Worldview and Truth

Two Minute Warning: How Then Should We Live?: Francis Schaeffer at 100

Francis Schaeffer Whatever Happened to the Human Race (Episode 1) ABORTION

Francis Schaeffer “BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY” Whatever…HTTHR


I. Optimism Of Older Humanist Philosophers:

The unity and true knowledge of reality defined as starting from Man alone.

II. Shift in Modern Philosophy

A. Eighteenth century as the vital watershed.

B. Rousseau: ideas and influence.

1. Rousseau and autonomous freedom.

2. Personal freedom and social necessity clash in Rousseau.

3. Rousseau’s influence.

a) Robespierre and the ideology of the Terror.

b) Gauguin, natural freedom, and disillusionment.

C. DeSade: If nature is the absolute, cruelty equals non-cruelty.

D. Impossible tension between autonomous freedom and autonomous reasons conclusion that the universe and people are a part of the total cosmic machine.

E. Kant, Hegel, and Kierkegaard and their followers sought for a unity but they did not solve the problem.

1. After these men and their followers, there came an absolute break between the area of meaning and values, and the area of reason.

2. Now humanistic philosophy sees reason as always leading to pessimism; any hope of optimism lies in non-reason.

III. Existentialism and Non-Reason

A. French existentialism.

1. Total separation of reason and will: Sartre.

2. Not possible to live consistently with this position.

B. German existentialism.

1. Jaspers and the “final experience.”

2. Heidegger and angst.

C. Influence of existentialism.

1. As a formal philosophy it is declining.

2. As a generalized attitude it dominates modern thought.

IV. Forms of Popularization of Nonrational Experience

A. Drug experience.

1. Aldous Huxley and “truth inside one’s head.”

2. Influence of rock groups in spreading the drug culture; psychedelic rock.

B. Eastern religious experience: from the drug trip to the Eastern religious trip.

C. The occult as a basis for “hope” in the area of non-reason.

V. Theological Liberalism and Existentialism

A. Preparation for theological existentialism.

1. Renaissance’s attempt to “synthesize” Greek philosophers and Christianity; religious liberals’ attempt to “synthesize” Enlightenment and Christianity.

2. Religious liberals denied supernatural but accepted reason.

3. Schweitzer’s demolition of liberal aim to separate the natural from the supernatural in the New Testament.

B. Theological existentialism.

1. Intellectual failure of rationalist theology opened door to theological existentialism.

2. Barth brought the existential methodology into theology.

a) Barth’s teaching led to theologians who said that the Bible is not true in the areas of science and history, but they nevertheless look for a religious experience from it.

b) For many adherents of this theology, the Bible does not give absolutes in regard to what is right or wrong in human behavior.

3. Theological existentialism as a cul-de-sac.

a) If Bible is divorced from its teaching concerning the cosmos and history, its values can’t be applied to a historic situation in either morals or law; theological pronouncements

about morals or law are arbitrary.

b) No way to explain evil or distinguish good from evil. Therefore, these theologians are in same position as Hindu philosophers (as illustrated by Kali).

c) Tillich, prayer as reflection, and the deadness of “god.”

d) Religious words used for manipulation of society.

VI. Conclusion

With what Christ and the Bible teach, Man can have life instead of death—in having knowledge that is more than finite Man can have from himself.


1. What is the difference between theologians and philosophers of the rationalist tradition and those of the existentialist tradition?

2. “If the early church had embraced an existentialist theology, it would have been absorbed into the Roman pantheon.” It didn’t. Why not?

3. “It is true that existentialist theology is foreign to biblical religion. But biblical religion was the product of a particular culture and, though useful for societies in the same cultural stream, it is no longer suitable for an age in which an entire range of world cultures requires a common religious denominator. Religious existentialism provides that, without losing the universal instinct for the holy.” Study this statement carefully. What assumptions are betrayed by it?

4. Can you isolate attitudes and tendencies in yourself, your church, and your community which reflect the “existentialist methodology” described by Dr. Schaeffer?

Key Events and Persons

Rousseau: 1712-1778

Kant: 1724-1804

Marquis de Sade: 1740-1814

The Social Contract: 1762

Hegel: 1770-1831

Kierkegaard: 1813-1855

Paul Gauguin: 1848-1903

Whence, What Whither?: 1897-1898

Albert Schweitzer: 1875-1965

Quest for the Historical Jesus: 1906

Karl Jaspers: 1883-1969

Paul Tillich: 1886-1965

Karl Barth: 1886-1968

Martin Heidegger: 1889-1976

Aldous Huxley: 1894-1963

J.P. Sartre: 1905-1980

Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper: 1967

Further Study

Unless already familiar with them, take time to listen to the Beatles’ records, as well as to discs put out by other groups at the time.

Albert Camus, The Stranger (1942).

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception (1954).

Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762).

J.P. Sartre, Nausea (1938).

Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be (1952).

Following Rousseau, the exaggeration of the delights and the pathos of nature and experience which marks Romanticism may be sampled in, for example, Wordsworth’s poems, Casper David Friedrich’s paintings, and Schubert’s songs.

J.G. Fichte, Addresses to the German Nation (1968).

J.W. von Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1962).

Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind (1952).



Jean-Paul SartreJean-Paul Sartre, (1905-1980) born in Paris in 1905, studied at the École Normale Supérieure from 1924 to 1929 and became Professor of Philosophy at Le Havre in 1931. With the help of a stipend from the Institut Français he studied in Berlin (1932) the philosophies of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger. After further teaching at Le Havre, and then in Laon, he taught at the Lycée Pasteur in Paris from 1937 to 1939. Since the end of the Second World War, Sartre has been living as an independent writer.

Sartre is one of those writers for whom a determined philosophical position is the centre of their artistic being. Although drawn from many sources, for example, Husserl’s idea of a free, fully intentional consciousness and Heidegger’s existentialism, the existentialism Sartre formulated and popularized is profoundly original. Its popularity and that of its author reached a climax in the forties, and Sartre’s theoretical writings as well as his novels and plays constitute one of the main inspirational sources of modern literature. In his philosophical view atheism is taken for granted; the “loss of God” is not mourned. Man is condemned to freedom, a freedom from all authority, which he may seek to evade, distort, and deny but which he will have to face if he is to become a moral being. The meaning of man’s life is not established before his existence. Once the terrible freedom is acknowledged, man has to make this meaning himself, has to commit himself to a role in this world, has to commit his freedom. And this attempt to make oneself is futile without the “solidarity” of others.

The conclusions a writer must draw from this position were set forth in “Qu’est-ce que la littérature?” (What Is Literature?), 1948: literature is no longer an activity for itself, nor primarily descriptive of characters and situations, but is concerned with human freedom and its (and the author’s) commitment. Literature is committed; artistic creation is a moral activity.

While the publication of his early, largely psychological studies, L’Imagination (1936), Esquisse d’une théorie des émotions (Outline of a Theory of the Emotions), 1939, and L’Imaginaire: psychologie phénoménologique de l’imagination (The Psychology of Imagination), 1940, remained relatively unnoticed, Sartre’s first novel, La Nausée (Nausea), 1938, and the collection of stories Le Mur (The Wall and other Stories), 1938, brought him immediate recognition and success. They dramatically express Sartre’s early existentialist themes of alienation and commitment, and of salvation through art.

His central philosophical work, L’Etre et le néant (Being and Nothingness), 1943, is a massive structuralization of his concept of being, from which much of modern existentialism derives. The existentialist humanism which Sartre propagates in his popular essay L’Existentialisme est un humanisme (Existentialism is a Humanism), 1946, can be glimpsed in the series of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté (The Roads to Freedom), 1945-49.

Sartre is perhaps best known as a playwright. In Les Mouches (The Flies), 1943, the young killer’s committed freedom is pitted against the powerless Jupiter, while in Huis Clos (No Exit), 1947, hell emerges as the togetherness of people.

Sartre has engaged extensively in literary critisicm and has written studies on Baudelaire (1947) and Jean Genet (1952). A biography of his childhood, Les Mots (The Words), appeared in 1964.


Decoding Woody Allen’s ‘Midnight in Paris’

Roger Arpajou/Versitil Cinema & Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Owen Wilson, left, is Gil, who travels back in time to 1920s Paris, and Marion Cotillard is Adriana, a fictional mistress of Picasso’s who catches Gil’s eye. More Photos »

Published: May 27, 2011

Many a writer or artist has longed to travel back in time to the sizzling Paris of the 1920s, to sip absinthe with Hemingway at Les Deux Magots or dine on choucroute garnie with Picasso at La Rotonde. Imagine the conversation! What has beguiled audiences about the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” is that the protagonist, Gil, a disenchanted Hollywood screenwriter played by Owen Wilson, gets to live exactly that fantasy.



Associated Press

F. Scott Fitzgerald, center, with his daughter Scottie, left and his wife Zelda in Paris in 1925.                            More Photos »

Roger Arpajou/Versatil Cinema & Gravier Productions, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston as Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris.”                            More Photos »

Associated Press

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in 1934.                            More Photos »

The New York Times

Ernest Hemingway, around 1937.                            More Photos »

Associated Press

Salvador Dalí in 1971.                            More Photos »

Associated Press

Cole Porter, around 1910.                            More Photos »

He runs into Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald at an elegant soiree, where he hears Cole Porter crooning “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love).” He gets writing advice from a laconic Hemingway, persuades Gertrude Stein to read the manuscript of his novel, and falls in love with Picasso’s mistress. He meets Salvador Dalí, T. S. Eliot, Djuna Barnes, Josephine Baker, Luis Buñuel, Man Ray and others in the enormously talented cast of expatriates and bohemians that peopled Jazz Age Paris. Reeling from the folly of World War I and so offering fodder for novels and paintings dripping with disillusionment, Paris was the center of the artistic universe then, and those legends really did converge on Paris around the same time.

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast,” Hemingway wrote in “A Moveable Feast,” his memoir that was posthumously published in 1964.

The movie sometimes assumes viewers know the details of these luminous lives, so it may be helpful to understand some of the complicated relationships that made Paris in that era both a dream and often something less.

In 1922 Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley, took a two-room flat near the Sorbonne that had no hot water and no indoor toilet. He also rented a room around the corner to write, something like the “attic with a skylight” Gil craves. It had a view of the smokestacks and rooftops that Mr. Allen captures in worshipful shots of the city.

Hemingway also discovered Shakespeare & Company, a bookstore near the Jardin du Luxembourg owned by Sylvia Beach that became a crossroads for Americans in Paris. It’s where he borrowed books by Turgenev and Tolstoy, and it makes a cameo in the film.

Gil meets Hemingway in a run-down cafe not unlike the legendary Dingo, where Hemingway’s less than beautiful friendship with Fitzgerald began with the latter’s drunken near-blackout. Hemingway, who is parodied in the film with dialogue like “no subject is terrible if the story is true and if the prose is clean and honest,” was envious of the seemingly effortless lyricism of Fitzgerald’s writing in works like “The Great Gatsby.” In “Midnight in Paris,” Hemingway tells Fitzgerald that Zelda, a writer herself, sees her husband as a competitor. But “A Moveable Feast” offers a more full-throated account. Hemingway grew to despise Zelda, partly because she had betrayed Fitzgerald with a French aviator and partly because he blamed her decadent tempestuousness for ruining her husband’s productivity.

Picasso and Matisse, who appear in the film, also had a rivalry, barely acknowledged in the film, with the two artists echoing — some critics say swiping — each other’s themes. Both gained the attention of the art collector Leo Stein and his sister, Gertrude. In the film Gil hears that Gertrude Stein has bought a Matisse for 500 francs and, in the hope of making a time-bending killing, asks her if he could pick up “six or seven” Matisses as well. The twice-married Picasso was famous for mistresses, and in the film Marion Cotillard plays Adriana, a capricious, if melancholy stand-in for all of Picasso’s lovers, models and muses. She claims to have been the lover of Modigliani and Braque as well. In actuality, Picasso’s mistresses were relatively constant. Marie-Thérèse Walter, who was 17 when she met Picasso, was with him for eight years, bearing him a daughter, Maya. Dora Maar, whom he met around 1935, was his lover for at least eight years as well.

The Indiana-born Cole Porter maintained an elegant apartment, where he gave hedonistic parties that were daring for their mingling of gay and straight friends. Porter met and married Linda Lee Thomas, a divorcée from Louisville who was eight years older and aware that Porter was gay. They set up an even more lavish apartment — walls covered in zebra hide — near Les Invalides, a home that seems like the setting for the on-screen party where Porter entertains his guests at the piano.

The film recounts how many Porter songs were hommages to Paris —“I Love Paris” and “C’est Magnifique,” among them — and indeed Porter wrote a musical, “Paris,” for the chanteuse Irene Bordoni. One of the show’s songs was “Let’s Do It,” with teasingly suggestive lines including: “In shallow shoals English soles do it./Goldfish in the privacy of bowls do it.”

When Gil sits down in a cafe with Dalí and Man Ray, he confides to those artists his shock at being catapulted back in time. Man Ray is delighted with the idea, but Gil tells him that’s because “you’re a Surrealist and I’m a normal guy.”

Dalí, played here by Adrien Brody, first visited Paris in 1926, grew the mustache that would become his trademark, and met his idol and fellow Spaniard, Picasso. Experimenting with many forms, Dalí fell in with a circle of Surrealists in Montparnasse whose members were probing the Freudian depths of their psyches for what they regarded as a new expressive frontier. He met his future wife, Gala, who was inconveniently married to a Surrealist poet.

Dalí collaborated with Buñuel on the short avant-garde film “Un Chien Andalou.” In “Midnight in Paris,” Gil suggests to Buñuel that he make a film about a dinner party gone haywire. Buñuel, of course, took up the suggestion. The film was “The Exterminating Angel,” released in 1962.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: May 31, 2011

An earlier version of this article omitted the final paragraph.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 1, 2011

An article on Saturday about figures from the Paris arts scene in the 1920s who appear in the new Woody Allen movie, “Midnight in Paris,” including the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, misidentified a film by Buñuel that the Allen movie’s protagonist urges him to make some day. It is “The Exterminating Angel,”

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