I began watching Woody Allen’s films back in 2011 with What’s Up Tiger Lily? and with Cafe Society this week I’ve sort-of finished. Only sort-of, because Allen’s still making movies — Big Wheel comes out later this year — and I wasn’t able to get most of his 1990s output without paying for DVDs (why neither my library nor Netflix has ’em, I know not).
What got me to work through his filmography (and to keep going despite charges he’s a child abuser) was how much his films changed over the years, from the sketch comedy of Take the Money and Run to more sophisticated comedies to rom-coms to pretentious dramas like Crimes and Misdemeanors. It’s a remarkable spread. Even if the films weren’t always to my taste (and little of his 21st century stuff was), the effort was worthwhile.
CAFE SOCIETY (2016) is one of those 21st century films that flopped for me. It starts off reasonably well as Jesse Eisenberg arrives in 1930s Hollywood and falls for uncle Steve Carrell’s secretary Kristen Stewart, unaware that Stewart is also Carrell’s mistress. Unfortunately this gets resolved mid-movie, leaving us watching Eisenberg rising to success and marrying well back in New York, which wasn’t terribly interesting, and his mobster brother’s subplot which isn’t interesting at all. I get the feeling Allen was shooting for more of a 1930s panorama than just the romantic plotline, but whatever the reason, it was a bad call.”Today we discussed the sixth psalm — oh lord, do not punish me in anger.”
I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG (2008) stars Kristin Scott Thomas (above right; all rights to image remain with current holder) a woman newly released from prison after 15 years for killing her son, and moving in with her sister, much to the discomfort of everyone, including the brother-in-law worrying child-killing might turn into a pattern. This is so low-key, and Thomas so emotionally withdrawn for much of the film that it took me a long while to warm up to the film. Ultimately though, it was worthwhile. “We think we know everything nowadays, but we don’t know the source of a river.”