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May 16, 2011

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Stephen Whitty

You were sitting behind me, Glenn, so I KNOW you had a good time. As did I.

And yes, as an admirer, Woody tests your patience. Over the wide breadth of his career, I think he's gone from EVERY movie being great, to every other, to -- well, one every three or four. Of course, only in America is that considered failure.

(And, personally, I thought "Vicki Christina Barcelona" was driven by great performances and "Match Point" was superb, and could be a great double-feature with "A Place in the Sun.")

But yes, this IS a lovely film. And should send everyone back to dig out their broken-backed paperbacks of "Getting Even," to read "A Twenties Memory."

christian

So sick of critics declaring "Woody is over" every few years. And they're repeatedly proven incorrect by either a terrific film or a film that global audiences embrace. He's one of America's true Master Filmmakers and we'll be bereft when he's gone. Apatow will not fill the void.

Oliver_C

"Never count an auteur out"

Roland Joffe? Masahiro Shinoda? If 'Captivity' and 'Spy Sorge' retained any trace of 'The Killing Fields' or 'Double Suicide' respectively, it must only be viewable via electron microscope.

Glenn Kenny

I think you've got it backwards, Oliver. "The Killing Fields" and "Double Suicide" represented Joffe and Shinoda, a marginal talent and a journeyman respectively, getting lucky. Happened more often for Shinoda—"Pale Flower" and "Silence" are better than decent, too—but you wouldn't necessarily say that a noticeable personal directorial signature is terribly discernible in those films. But at least Shinoda seems consistently competent, which can hardly be said for Joffe (I've seen "Vatel," oh boy).

Oliver_C

Might I suggest an amendment, then?

"Never count an auteur out (a rule which is never broken -- except when it is, in which case the director concerned is arbitrarily, retroactively declared not to be an auteur)"

Glenn Kenny

Um, Mr. C., I don't know what you're talking about. I've never "declared" Joffe an auteur, and I've never really formulated too much of an opinion on Shinoda's work to categorize him as anything, until about five minutes ago, and now you're holding me and my casual aperçu to some kind of standard designed, apparently, to highlight some critical wishy-washiness on my part. Is there a problem here? I mean, aside from the increasingly obvious one?

jbryant

Haven't seen a Woody film in theaters since SMALL TIME CROOKS; will definitely catch this one. It's also about time to catch up with his last few. A few years ago I caught up with all his early aughts stuff on DVD, and generally had a more positive reaction that the critical consensus (I even liked HOLLYWOOD ENDING, which I even sat through a second time the other night on cable!).

Nice to see a shout-out for Roy Ward Baker's excellent INFERNO in your PIRATES 4 review. I've never been able to see it in 3D, but thoroughly enjoyed three times in all its flat glory. Lee Katzin's TV remake, ORDEAL, isn't nearly as good, but wisely dumps the main character's narration and the deus ex machina ending, my only quibbles with the original.

Chris O.

Mr. Jones' Q&A with Mr. Allen is a great read as well. The Sturges insight was particularly interesting.

bill

I'm a defender of latter-day Woody Allen, but I couldn't get past a half hour of WHATEVER WORKS. My God, was that unbearable. All of his worst instincts concentrated in one film. One half hour of one film, actually.

Also, I just want to say that PALE FLOWER is a great film, and I do not approve of the faint praise it is receiving here today. I do not approve at all.

Glenn Kenny

Okay, I'm going back to bed.

bill

Aw, I'm just ribbin' you. I am surprised that you don't seem to like PALE FLOWER quite as much as I do, but it's also the first Shinonda film I've seen, so what do I know about him.

Glenn Kenny

I think on first viewing of "Pale Flower" my well was tainted by weird expectations, e.g., that I was gonna see something along the lines of a '60s Suzuki. This is A LOT more straightforward than that. Now that I'm acclimated to that, the picture is playing better for me. Great disc, better Blu-ray...

MarkVH

Nice work on the Pirates review, Glenn, and I tend to agree about them not working in the traditional narrative sense, and not really caring whether they do or not. I thought the second film was a drag, but not because it was so convoluted (well, ok, maybe this hurt a bit). Instead, it was the need to recycle jokes and bits from the previous film that really irked me. By the time the third one rolled around I stopped trying to understand what was happening and who was doing what to whom, and just sat back and drank in the glorious production design. And I managed to have a fairly good time with it.

It's also worth noting that I caught the third film again on an East-West coast flight a year or so later, but without my headphones in and sped up to compress the running time. And I'll be damned if the last half of it didn't play great as a silent film in the Fairbanks tradition. Just saying.

BLH

I thought Whatever Works was one of the 2 or 3 worst things that Allen has ever done, but Tall Dark Stranger seemed pretty much perfect to me, and I never came across a legitimate argument against the merits of the film (the general consensus of "Blech, cranky old Woody" didn't really cut it for me). I'm glad, then, that Midnight in Paris is getting the response it is, as it means I can be a fan again for a while rather than an apologist.

Tom Russell

As someone who has enjoyed a number of later Woody Allen films-- shut up, HOLLYWOOD ENDING was great-- and didn't enjoy some others (Bill, I also only got a half-hour through WHATEVER WORKS, though that might have something to do with my intense dislike of its star)-- I'm looking forward to this one.

I enjoyed the Pirates films-- the action set-pieces in the second one were especially thrilling. My major problem with the third was when the giant storm-goddess woman appeared, and then turned into crabs. My general feeling is, when you have a giant storm-goddess woman at the end of your movie, you should find something better for her to do then turn into a bunch of crabs.

As for the Joffe mini-discussion, well, I liked THE MISSION, haven't seen anything else. If THE KILLING FIELDS is as good as people say (and my Mary assures me that it is), he's been lucky at least twice. But THE MISSION at least didn't make me want to immediately seek out more of the man's work in the same way that, say, PULP FICTION or MANHATTAN or STOLEN KISSES did.

bill

@Glenn -

"my well was tainted by weird expectations, e.g., that I was gonna see something along the lines of a '60s Suzuki."

That's exactly what I thought, in my case because, I guess, the Criterion back-cover copy referred to PALE FLOWER as jazzy. Which, despite its jazzy score, it isn't. But a film like PALE FLOWER plays much more strongly for me than something like TOKYO DRIFTER...it's just my wiring that makes me respond more immediately to the former.

@Tom - I don't intensely dislike Larry David, and was even looking forward to the film being really sour and mean -- that would have been fine by me if WHATEVER WORKS had been funny, at all, and so limply "stylized" and mannered and easy. Just...no thank you.

I still think CASSANDRA'S DREAM is terrific, though.

Kent Jones

GK - Thanx. To return the compliment, I love what you wrote about Wilson in the movie. He's very special.

jbryant, INFERNO in 3-D was a great experience. Especially in rendering the rock that Ryan had to climb down, then up again, then back down again with a broken leg.

Victor Morton

woo-hoo ... good news. I speak as someone, like Glenn, who's enough of a de-facto a*****ist to still be going to Allen's films after WHATEVER WORKS (an all-time least-favorite).

You can't tell much from a trailer, of course, but The Film The Trailer Was Selling looks like it could be a fun comic-intellectual romp, and Owen Wilson is acting like a plausible 'Woody'-substitute. And visually, it looks to have, like a lot of Late Woody, a warm-glow "burnished" quality that makes you feel loved and cared-for, like the smell of apple pie or the feel of a down comforter.

christian

I had hoped the team up of Larry David and Woody Allen was a match made in comedy heaven, but alas...David seemed unable to play somebody else.

jbryant

Tom, I had heard rumors that there was one other person besides me who liked HOLLYWOOD ENDING. Hail, brother. We must stand strong.

Kent, one great thing about INFERNO is that I could at least imagine how great it would play in 3D, and be reminded that the tech can be used to add an interesting value to subjects with no fantasy or sci-fi content (see also DIAL M FOR MURDER, etc.).

John M

Only slightly related, but Owen Wilson deserved an Oscar nom for his work in HOW DO YOU KNOW. When he's pushed, he goes to great weird heights.

Tom Russell

Jbryant: Indeed! It's a very funny film (that in-the-background fall still cracks me up every time) and, I think, a very warm one. The stuff with the son comes out of left field, and yet works, because the character doesn't think about his son until the movie does. One of the few showbiz comedies I can stand.

lipranzer

Once again late to the party...

Bill, I was ready to give up on WHATEVER WORKS early on as well (Larry David I can usually only take in small doses, but I thought his kind of misanthropic humor would add a welcome edge to Allen's movie, and I was disappointed when instead he seemed straitjacketed in the role), but everything does get better as soon as Patricia Clarkson shows up. She's genuinely funny, and her storyline I found entertaining to watch as well (also nice to see Olek Krupa in a non-heavy role).

Can't get behind the HOLLYWOOD ENDING love, though. My brother and I, who have both been hardcore Allen fans since we were kids, saw that movie in the theater together and we didn't laugh once.

Still looking forward to MIDNIGHT IN PARIS.

Brian Dauth

I like late Allen as well -- I regard SCOOP as a satyr play that revisits and renders comic the tragedy of MATCH POINT before it. As for WHATEVER WORKS -- am I mistaken in remembering that the script was an old one that Allen dusted off/updated? It certainly struck me as "anachronistic” in terms of the chronology of his career.

Unkle Rusty

I actually found Evan Rachel Wood rather delightful in Whatever Works, despite being saddled with an unbelievable character (unbelievable that she would go anywhere near Boris, that is). But boy does that thing come off the rails quickly. A film that seems to be attempting a genuinely misanthropic world view that concludes with everyone winding up with whom they deserve is the definition of misguided.

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