Monday, August 1, 2016

"Woody Allen's 'Cafe Society' - Random Reactions"

An eighty year-old makes a movie.

A four year-old rides a bicycle. 

Not a top-of–the-line performance, perhaps.  But it’s kind of remarkable they are doing it at all.

I don’t know what kind of movie I’d make if I were eighty.  Although what difference does that make?  I am reminded of the teenaged audience member who, after watching the pilot filming of Best of the West and was asked, “What did you think?” thoughtfully replied, “It’s better than I could do.” 

What kind of cockamamie standard is that?     

Woody Allen has written and directed forty-something features films, some I really enjoyed, some I didn’t, and some I didn’t bother to go to, though not necessarily in that order.  (Making movies seems to be Woody Allen’s reason for getting up in the morning.  My reason for getting up in the morning is to avoid lying lifelessly in bed going, “You mean yesterday was it?”)

It’s been a while since Woody Allen’s cinematic counterpart’s cryogenically preserved body was rolled out on a gurney encased head-to-toe in aluminum foil (Sleeper).  Or a South American dictator proclaimed that all citizens must henceforth wear their underwear on the outside of their clothing (Bananas).  Or there was a chain-gang escapee sent to jail for “dancing with a mailman” and another for “marrying a horse” (Take the Money and Run).

Youthful mishigus.  (“Mishigus” means foolishness.  “Youthful” you already know.)  That stuff is not coming back.  Where did it go?  Wherever my hair disappeared to, it is keeping company with youthful mishigus.  And my taste for powdered sugar sucked through a licorice straw.  I cannot believe I once saw that as a delectable “taste treat”.

Café Society looks spectacular.  Especially the gold-infused Hollywood segments.  (The New York segments remind me of walking the streets and getting soot in my eyes.  But I wasn’t born there.  Maybe as kids, they learn to sidestep the debris.)  The story and dialogue are professional in the extreme, “the extreme” meaning they are more deliberately constructed than actual life.  Or Annie Hall or Manhattan.

Again, I am not a film critic, so no talk about set decoration and lighting.  (I did mention the golden hue of the Hollywood segments but that could have been the actual sunset.)

What’s left to talk about? 

How Café Society makes you feel. 

Dr. M referred to its overall impression as “cold.”

I’ll meet her three-quarters of the way on that four-letter assessment.

To me, it felt old.

An old person makes an old-feeling movie.

That’s taking me “viral”, isn’t it?

Personal “Memory Pieces” (Summer of ‘42) aside, you cannot believably “write young” when you’re old any more than you can believably “act tall” when you’re short.  What then are your options?  You don’t have any.  You have no alternative but to write what you are. 

What does “old” write about, besides death, which you cannot exclusively write about or people will shun your movies in larger numbers than they already do?

Change of pace:

“Old” writes about regret.

You are happily married.  But once upon a time, there was another… and the two of you were so… it seemed inevitable you would… but you didn’t.

That’s the “A” story in Café Society. 

There was this moment and it passed and life happened and that’s it.

Thank you for coming and we’ll see you next year.

You are concerned the “Regret Theme” is not enough for an entire movie?  Throw in a murderous gangster who shoots people in the head. 

What’s that supposed to be – “comic relief”?  There are movie I avoid less violent than Café Society.  Two guys sitting in a truck, a man comes up to the passenger side and blows the guy’s brains out before my shocked and tormented eyes.

I’m thinking, “Bring back the ‘Regret’!”

Of course, if it’s Woody Allen, there are always great jokes to lift our spirits.  The two most quoted zingers from Café Society:

“Life is a comedy… written by a sadistic comedy writer.”  (Not mentioning any names.)


“The unexamined life is not worth living.  But the examined one is no bargain.”

So much for “humorous interludes”.  Unlike Sleeper, there will be no “cloning a nose” (also from Sleeper) in this movie.

Oh yeah. Woody Allen also does the voiceover on Café Society, sounding like a groggy octogenarian roused in the middle of the night and instructed to

“Read this.”

An eighty year-old writer-director made Café Society, focusing on issues relevant to himself, like regret, which, either you don’t have any in which case the movie has no emotional resonance for you, or you have some but you would prefer not to think about them.

Either way, it is a tough film to recommend.

Unless you want to see Jessie Eisenberg playing Woody Allen.

As if Woody Allen had been cloned.

Which, quite possibly he was.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

I think by and large the quality of Woody Allen's work took a nosedive around the time of the scandal, accelerating after the 1990s. I've seen a few of his output since then, and really liked none of them very much. I think SWEET AND LOWDOWN was the last one I actually thought worth the time, and that was mostly for the music. I didn't care at all for BLUE JASMINE, which some friends dragged me to see, unlike apparently most people who've seen it. Still, his diligent attention to making one movie a year is extraordinary, and I guess if you keep working long enough there may be some gems to find eventually.


Josiah said...

Blake Lively! I'll see it when it gets to Netflix. Story line isn't appealing to me but music in his films always pleases me. Of his recent ventures, Midnight in Paris was good. If I live to 80, and I can find a reason to get up, i'll be shocked.