The Woody Blues

28 06 2010
Larry David, Woody Allen

Prettay, prettay bad... 'Whatever Works'

There was a time when, like many other dedicated cinema-goers I suppose, I considered myself to be a fan of Woody Allen’s work. Not so much the ‘early, funny’ films of the Seventies – although Annie Hall and Sleeper and Play It Again Sam certainly have their place – but more the fully-fledged, gloomier Allen of the Eighties; the Allen of Husbands and Wives, Hannah and Her Sisters and Broadway Danny Rose. Even when sailing dangerously close to self-parody (with the Bergman-esque Another Woman), or to rose-tinted nostalgia (Radio Days), Woody was always interesting, and you always had the sense that here was an artist pushing against the boundaries set for him by others, whether as a comedian, a writer or an increasingly implausible romantic lead.

Well, sad to report, it seems that Woody gave up pushing a long time ago now. For the best part of the last two decades, the director has struggled along, producing films at a phenomenal rate (around one per year) but with increasingly fluctuating returns, both artistic and commercial.

That 2008’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona was seen by many as a triumphant return-to-form is an indication in itself of just how low Allen’s stock had fallen. In the wake of such poorly-reviewed and little-seen work as Small Time Crooks (2000), Hollywood Ending (2002) and Anything Else (2003), even his long-term financiers pulled the plug, and Allen was left to find new ways to pursue his doggedly single-minded career as a writer-director.

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The Happiest Girl in the World – A Review

23 06 2010

At first glance, The Happiest Girl in the World couldn’t be more different from other Romanian films that have made it onto British screens in recent years. While 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007) took backstreet abortion as its subject matter, and The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005) the final hours of a complaining alcoholic everyman, director Radu Jude’s debut feature focuses instead on the apparently much happier story of a teenage girl who has won a competition.

The girl in question is Delia (Andreea Bosneag), a 14-year-old from the provinces who has won a new car in a competition organised by a fruit juice company. We follow Delia over the course of a day, as she travels to Bucharest with her parents to collect her prize, before which she must appear in a promotional advert for the fruit drink.

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Sex & The City – Port of Call: New Orleans

5 06 2010

In the last week, I’ve been to see two films at the cinema. The first was the rather cumbersomely-titled The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans; the second, the less confusingly-named Sex and the City 2.

At first glance it might seem that these two Hollywood movies have very little in common. One is a story of crime and addiction set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the other a tale of ladies who lunch, buy shoes and have romantic adventures in New York and Abu Dhabi .

Look beyond the obvious differences between the two however, and it soon becomes clear that they have a surprising amount in common. For a start, they’re both sequels, of a sort. Bad Lieutenant is a re-imagining of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 study of Catholic guilt and redemption, and Sex and the City 2 an extension of the TV and movie franchise that has brought such joy to womankind (and such bum-numbing misery to their menfolk) over the last ten years.

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