Reading Documentary led me to watch THE MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929) in which Russian director/cameraman Dziga Vertov chronicles a day in the life of the USSR: trolley rides, industrial workers, sports competitions, a magician at a kids’ party, young women with parasols and crowds rushing two and from work. Vertov hoped to create an international language of pure visuals, without the use of intertitles; an impressive job, though constantly filming his camera crews at work undercuts the realism.
Given Woody Allen’s nostalgic streak I’m surprised the 1950s-set WONDER WHEEL (2018) isn’t a Radio Days-style tribute to Coney Island’s past. Instead, it’s a Tennessee Williams-style psychodrama in which lifeguard Justin Timberlake narrates how he came to have an affair with Kate Winslett, only to have the arrival of her stepdaughter Juno Temple (fleeing her mobster spouse) throw everything into chaos. Not only does Timberlake fall for Temple, Winslett’s husband Jim Belushi finds himself siding with his estranged child over his wife, all of which culminates in tragedy and heartbreak. A hamfisted drama with characters who are way too self-aware and dialog too self-consciously theatrical (Timberlake explains that away as his fallible memory but it still doesn’t work. And like Blue Jasmine this has echoes of Allen’s affair with Mia Farrow’s daughter and not in a good way (once again everything would have been fine if the Mom wasn’t such a bitch).“What power — to tell a tragic story about the human condition and how we have to lie to ourselves to live!”
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