Monday, 22 September 2014


Woody Allen's latest film opens on stage. Would that that were actually true - his 'style' has 'evolved' into something so absurdly theatrical that it has no place on a screen. The problems with this exaggerated artificiality in Magic in the Moonlight aren't confined to the dialogue, they're in Allen's directing too. He favours long shots of actors all facing the camera, (a number of prominently featured locations are only ever viewed from one position) apparently loathe to resort to a standard shot / reverse-shot format - even these are handled poorly when featured; this is an atrociously edited film. One hopes at least for technical competency from someone with so much filmmaking experience, not least because the action being depicted is frequently questionable in nature and execrable in execution. Allen's scenario obliges a cast of accomplished performers to wither in the background as pathetic comic relief, gifted the occasional line for our amusement and their humiliation. The leads are lavished an unfortunate degree of attention, their nauseating repartee defined by deception and downright offense, and that's more directed toward us than each other. Allen's toying with nostalgia - something he achieves with some success in his period recreation, though one could attribute that to the ease with which this is possible. But is there truly any genuine nostalgia for plots like this any more, where the crusty old fart belittles the unattainable object of his lasciviousness into falling in love with him? It's a rotten set-up, which Allen drags out reprehensibly; the film is stripped of all tension and drama as it unfolds, one wordy, inconsequential scene following another. It's also blighted with continuity mistakes and narrative inconsistencies. Magic is, however, blessed with beautiful visual design (Darius Khondji's cinematography is particularly pleasant), and the irreplaceable Eileen Atkins, who has the distinction, predictably, of being the only cast member to be able to make Allen's laboured dialogue sound as natural as he intends.