14 May 2017

One Of The Good Ones

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I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that we all look forward to finding ourselves with a good old Woody. Allen is obviously a controversial figure, with some people having written him off as nothing more than an over-privileged kiddie-fiddler whose very career is an insult to his alleged victim. Others cite the intensive investigation and lack of conclusive evidence as proof that he should be treated as both an innocent man and the film-making and comedic genius that he quite clearly is. I developed my love of Woody Allen last year in which a casual enjoyment of Annie Hall turned into a full blown 'crack-head in a door way level' of obsession with his career. I don't want to accuse a victim of abuse of being a liar, but nor would I like to think of an innocent man as being a sly and unrepentant child-fucker. The fact of the matter is however that none of us know the truth and most likely never will. I therefore exist in a Schroedinger's Box of Allen's alleged nonciness. I can enjoy his movies, and if I were to ever meet him then I'd be over-joyed to ask him a million questions about his work. But if he started a childminding service and I needed somebody to look after my kid.. well, I probably would still use him in order to meet him. But I'd be suspicious.

I mention all of that just so you know where I am on the Allen-O-Meter in order for you to then be able to recalibrate what I'm about to say to suit wherever you are on your scale of semi-informed and judgemental bullshit. I saw his latest film Café Society yesterday and I honestly fucking loved it. Like, I really loved it. The guy has been churning movies out with even more regularity than a man of his age can manage a bowel movement and yet as he's also embarked on an Amazon series, there also seems to be no stopping him. This film essentially tells the story of a young chap attempting to embark on career in movies during Hollywood's Golden Age. Luckily for him, his Uncle is a Hollywood agent because this movie takes place in a world in which the only way to break into show business is through either sucking somebodies cock or nepotism. This is opposed to our modern day real world in which that seems to be the only way to get any fucking job.

The young guy is played by Jessie Eisenberg which makes this the third film of last year that I've seen him in. It's a relief too because I'd left the Now You See Me sequel wishing I hadn't, and his performance as Lex Luthor was more irritating than having an itchy dick outside a primary school. Here, however, he's back to being brilliant. I can only assume that those other two performances from this year were done by the evil Jessie Eisenberg from The Double in an attempt to shit on the good one's career. The funny thing too is in how Woody Allen is kind of too old to play the main character these days, and so basically gets people to play him instead. So if you watch Bullets Over Broadway, it's pretty fucking obvious that John Cusack is channelling Allen in a role that could have been played by him had it not been for the skin-destroying curse of Father Time. Well, that's true of Café Society too except Eisenberg isn't so much channelling Allen as he is having fully transformed into him. Imagine that scene from An American Werewolf In London except instead of writhing around on the floor and growing fangs and a snout he simply became even more jittery than usual before popping on a white shirt/brown trouser combo.

Well.. I imagine that's how it happened anyway, because there are times during the opening of the film in which it's as though the main character really is being played by Allen himself. It's just that he's presumably wearing one of those motion capture suits that a special effects guy has later made look like the bloke from The Social Network. However on top of him, the rest of the cast are also equally brilliant. Originally, Bruce Willis was cast in the role of Uncle Phil until the once great action man of the world continued to be his current dickish self and found himself being hoofed out on his arse. Sick of John McClane's inability to give a shit, the Hollywood big-shot was defeated by a 5ft5, characteristically nebbish, 80 year old man and replaced by Steve Carell. Not that this is a bad thing, of course. Despite still thinking of himself as Mr Action Man, Willis' role was easily filled by a short guy in his mid-50's who has only ever flirted with action after killing a man with a trident. He is brilliant in this though. Along with Foxcatcher and Little Miss Sunshine, Carell continues to prove that he's even better at drama than he is comedy. In fact, the only thing that could have made his character even better would have been after he'd told Eisenberg that, “this whole town runs on ego”, had he then turned to the camera and said, “So yippee ki-ay, motherfucker”.

This therefore leaves just Kristen Stewart, who plays a young woman who's having an affair with an older married man who works in the business. I wonder what research she did to be able to play this character!? Either way it paid off because she's equally great, which is lucky considering the film relies on us finding her interesting enough to believe that Eisenberg could develop an obsession with her. Like Scarlett Johansson, Stewart also has an old timey quality about her which helps to build this 1930's world and make it feel so believable. In fact, I spent so much time admiring how much the film felt like an Allen movie, and how gorgeous it looked that I forgot that it was a period movie. I just completely bought the time period that it was set in by accidentally taking Allen's skills as a director for granted. It's easy to think of him as more of a writer but the world building here is as good as the Coen's managed with Hail Caesar, with his directing skills often going uncommented on. Although of all the things Allen might need to worry about in terms of how people think of him.. I suppose that's not his biggest problem.

And speaking of Allen, it seems that every film he releases these days is considered either a failure or a return to form. Although what form he's returning to I'm not really sure considering how often he returns to it. Blue Jasmine was released in 2013 and hailed as a return to his usual greatness which seemed a little odd considering only two years early the exact same thing had been said of Midnight In Paris. Personally I wouldn't say that Café Society was up there with Annie Hall, with it being a little more incidental as far as his career goes. More Manhattan Murder Mystery than Manhattan, I guess. However an above average movie for Allen is still leagues ahead of most other movies as far as I'm concerned. As far as his work goes I suppose, this one doesn't really do anything new. There's an Allen voice-over like in Radio Days, there's a gangster subplot like Crimes And Misdemeanours, it's set in the 1930's like Zelig, and like almost every single fucking one of his movies, it involves both New York and people shagging about as though it's about to go out of fashion.

Oh, and also like the bulk of his movies, the underlying theme seems to be a constant feeling of existential anguish and the way in which we're forced into lives that we wouldn't necessarily have chosen for ourselves. Although as shit as life might have been, as I sat in the cinema watching this, I can't say that I wasn't happy. If you've already decided that Allen is a nonce and should have been strung up from the lampposts then I'm guessing this probably isn't going to be a film for you. However as a huge fan of his persona and work, I really enjoyed this film. Allen once said that “The artist's job is not to succumb to the despair but to find an antidote for the emptiness of existence”. Well, I can't say I feel any better about existence, but it was nice to have my mind distracted with something as enjoyable as this for a couple of hours. Not that this would be of much interest to him I suppose considering that one of his other more famous quotes is that “I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying”. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.

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