Something is happening to Woody Allen … or to me … not clear exactly what, but I started to like more his latest films. His 2010 production screened at Cannes seems to have been seen by very few people, and if I hurry I may be the first viewer to post a review at IMDB. It will be released in October in Israel, and last night I saw it at a pre-screening at the Herzlya Cinematheque.

source www.imdb.com

With this film Allen is back in England, but there is very little Britishness in this movie excepting the setting and the opening quote of Shakespeare. To the same extent the story could have happened in Manhattan, or some other corner of Allenland. The quote that I mentioned is about the meaning of life, and it leaves nothing to fate or to higher goals in our lives, but rather a lot to chance and to trying to find a support that makes us overcome hurdles, any support, be it a dream, or a cheap superstition, or even a cheat. The Tall Dark Stranger in the title can be a handsome male the women in the movie dream about, or maybe the dark end that expects each of us at the finish line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVtfduiEmY0

(video source gigatrailers)

Each of the characters in the film finds his own cheat or lie or fraud to rely upon. Helena Shepridge (wonderful British actress Gemma Jones) is abandoned by her husband Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and finds refuge and advice in a fake fortune-teller who tells her what she wants to hear. If her fortune-teller is real, the other characters can be said to have private virtual fortune-tellers of their own. Alfie marries a prostitute half his age in a vain attempt to win back his lost youth, just to find himself deceived as expected. Helena’s daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) fantasizes about an affair with her rich boss gallery owner (Antonio Banderas). Her husband, Roy (Josh Brolin) unsuccessfully tries to sell his second novel, then fate and fraud combine to help him make an apparent jump ahead which allows him to cheat on his wife and dare date the neighbor in the near-by building which he observes in a Peeping Tom manner that allows Allen to quote Hitchcock. Each of the character has ups and downs, actually more downs then ups, but we are in Woody Allen movies, nobody is really hungry, suffering is existential, and despite all problems in life there is always money for good meals and whiskey.

(video source AFP)

The story can actually end at any point in time, ten minutes earlier or ten minutes later. Each of the characters goes through convulsions of fate, but the story and the film must end, as everything ends, but do not look for meanings about the ending, it just ends. The combination of skillful story telling and abrupt ending works well. As the end is not served on the tray it is the spectator who needs to fill it in with some meaning, if there is a meaning. Yet, the overall impression is of having seen a piece of life as Woody Allen understands life, and it is funny and well acted, as the actors seem comfortable enough in Woody Allen’s films, they like acting here, and in some cases they give some of the best roles (I liked the performances of Brolin, Jones and Watts).

There are little things that I know about the next year (no fortune telling skills, sorry), but one if them is that for sure there will be a new film by Woody Allen on the screens. Maybe it will be about a director making one movie each year, I do not know. Chances are that I will like it.