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Geo. Raymond on: Woody Allen, European

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The Reeler Blog

Woody Allen, European

"It was the strangest thing": Woody Allen at Wednesday's TIFF press conference for Cassandra's Dream (Photo: STV)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

You can attribute Woody Allen's upcoming misfire Cassandra's Dream to a range of factors: a miscast Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor as skint London brothers ensnared in a doomed murder-for-hire plot; an underdeveloped script with an ending foreshadowed around the fourth or fifth minute; Philip Glass' overdramatic score; Allen's rudimentary framing and disinclination toward coverage; plot points blunt as river rock -- you get the point.

The primary weakness, and certainly the most unsettling, is the complacency Allen seems to have adopted since his 2005 British stunner Match Point -- his first film outside New York in three decades and a refreshing (if polarizing) turn for the filmmaker who'd stagnated with the late-era likes of Melinda and Melinda and Anything Else. While last year's inconsistent Scoop at least revived some of Allen's flagging comic appeal, Cassandra's Dream invokes Match Point's spirit of class-striving Brit melodrama as Greek tragedy, handling neither vein especially well. If Allen hasn't run out of ideas, he has at least attenuated them to last longer for what appear to be perpetual backers in Europe.

In previous interviews, Allen has noted it was economic considerations as much as -- if not more than -- aesthetic pursuits that drove him to shoot in London in the first place. Cassandra's Dream reflects that reality to some degree, but at Wednesday's TIFF press conference for the film, which had its North American premiere at the festival Tuesday night, I asked the filmmaker if he still had New York stories to tell and if he felt professionally exiled at all from his hometown.

"I've always felt like I'm on the outside, because I've always made my films in New York and not in the mainstream of Hollywood," he said. "I've always worked on a very, very low budget and always worked with a lot of creative freedom. This is not the typical way of working. People work with higher budgets and less creative freedom -- more in the general swing of things. I could never have done that. And when I started making movies, I always idolized people like Bergman and Fellini and Buñuel and De Sica. I always wanted to be a foreign filmmaker, and..." Allen wringed his hands and smiled wryly. "Through an odd circumstance I became one. It was the strangest thing.

"I found I could get more copacetic financing in Europe," Allen continued. "And so I made a film in England and had a wonderful time. The aesthetics were very good for me. They don't want to read my script; they don't care who's in it. It's a wonderful situation. So I made more in London because it's a very good way to work, and I had the same situation in Spain. I've had offers from France and Italy to come and make movies. I suddenly found myself this past summer working with Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz, and I was a foreign filmmaker all of the sudden. It was the fulfillment of my young adulthood fantasy."

OK, so he's not coming back. I'll get over it. Still, the address on the checks doesn't explain the wildly fluctuating quality of the films. He admitted being a 9-5 type of filmmaker, more interested in making tipoff at the Knicks game than taking time to cover the loads of hastily composed master shots that sink Cassandra's Dream. "I think automatically some are better than others," Allen told moderator Evan Solomon. "Some ideas are better than others and sometimes you execute better for one reason or another. They wouldn't be the same no matter what. But I do think that I could probably do a little better work if I was more careful or conscientious. I'm not a perfectionist. I like to do a film every year and throw a lot of stuff up on the wall; what sticks, sticks, and what doesn't, doesn't. I don't like to make a big production of every film and dine out on the successes and brood over the failures. I just like to make them, take the money and move on with my life."

Posted at September 13, 2007 10:54 AM

Comments (3)

S.T. VanAirsdale needs to get over him/herself. Woody Allen certainly has nothing left to prove to his audience. If Woody wants to spend his golden years making films -- then God bless him. I will certainly check them out. Good (Matchpoint) or bad (Scoop) its nice to have Woody around.

S.T. VanAirsdale ... take a break from Woody's films, sounds like they are not for you anyway.

Bad reviews are one thing, sarcastic b.s. from a hack writer ... well, let's just say, if you stop writing. I'll get over it.

Thanks for the honest appraisal, Geo. Perhaps a look around the site will give you a better idea of how complex our estimation of Woody Allen actually is. I'd start here, and bounce around elsewhere if you feel inclined.

Meanwhile, it's back to hackery for me -- thanks!


Straight from the horse's mouth! Woody is crumbling before our very eyes but there are no shortage of apologists out there so it's refreshing to see some harsh, honest criticism for a change.

There was a time when I awaited every new Woody film, no matter how slight, with baited breath but since the abomination of 'Match Point', things a hit a new low. It was hard to believe a film so badly cast and written could be the handy work of the great Woody Allen.

For my money he should simply retire or, at the very least, take a nice long rest. He could maybe cultivate a less expensive hobby than filmmaking - like gardening or practising the clarinet till he could actually give Sidney Bechet a run for his money - anything but make another embarrassing film.

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