Friday, 9 September 2016


The musings of a corrupted mind may strive for all the philosophical, intellectual or artistic magnitude they like, but, as we see in Woody Allen's Cafe Society, their reach is fundamentally limited. Allen's natural tendencies, those quirks that have constructed his inimitable identity as a filmmaker, both redeem his new film and condemn it; it lacks the excessive toxicity of several of his recent films, and delivers more on dialogue and aesthetics, but its core concerns are unavoidably, predictably wretched. Which is not to say the 80-year-old's intelligence has abandoned him - Cafe Society is threaded through, if only sporadically, with hints of that philosophical magnitude, that which once vitalized his films, and overwhelmed them. But that was then, and this is now, and now Woody Allen is a rather different kind of filmmaker - a latently lecherous one with a repellent fixation on women far less than half his age, and an equal delusion toward his artistic capacity. Allen is ambitious in imagining that he might be able to produce one masterpiece after another, spanning countless genres, year upon year, though where Cafe Society succeeds in this regard, it's almost entirely due to his ace creative team. He works here with the great Vittorio Storaro; Storaro brings out the best in his director, though Allen brings out the worst in his cinematographer. And his ambition is nowhere to be observed where it really counts, with wooden direction, serviceable writing (save a fine selection of classic quips) and lazy editing sapping all the zest out of a potentially zingy comedy. Finally, it's a cumbersome way to close a review, but it must be noted: there are two consecutive green screen shots that rank as the worst screen images of the year by a country mile. I had to mention them. They truly are that bad.