The lead single off the second, best and alas last album from Girls Father, Son and Holy Ghost was called “Venom” (reviewed earlier here). The title refers to a Bible story where a thief’s need to return to the scene of his crime is compared to a dog’s compulsion to examine its own vomit.
This seems to be the only possible explanation as to why it is that Woody Allen keeps going back to make yet another film. It would all make sense if the reason he were in such a hurry to produce a new film every year was because the last few had been so disappointing.
That’s what made his last film, Blue Jasmine (reviewed earlier here) so refreshing. It suggested the beginning of a new phase. His latest, Magic in the Moonlight is sadly more of the same, and we’re back where we were.
Since his last genuinely funny comedy, Bullets Over Broadway in 1994 Allen has made 20 films. That’s one a year. And the only two that merited watching all the way through were Sweet and Lowdown in 1999 and Match Point in 2005 – Vicky Christina Barcelona (’08) doesn’t count. You could film Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz pairing their toenails and it would still be electrifying.
What you think of his latest film will depend on whether you’re old enough to remember how exciting the prospect of a new Woody Allen film used to be.
Annie Hall (’77), Manhattan (‘79), Zelig (’83), The Purple Rose Of Cairo (’85) and Crimes and Misdemeanors (’89) are all serious, substantial, significant films. And they’re funny. The last time I laughed during a Woody Allen film was Bullets Over Broadway.
It’s not as if they’ve become more serious. On the contrary, they’re ever lighter and more and more insubstantial. And they’re less funny. All of the themes that were once explored, painfully, are now breezily ticked off, as if on some sort of existential shopping list.
Ironically, the only thing that make his films watchable these days are the cast he still manages to attract. Everybody used to fall over themselves to be in the new Woody Allen film because the scripts were so good. They still do. But the scripts are so sloppily cobbled together these days that were it not for their stellar casts, they’d be unwatchable.
None of which will bother you if all you are looking for is a poor man’s Downtown to watch on your new iPhone, as you keep your eye on Strictly leafing through the Sunday papers as you check your messages. As ever the cast are all exemplary, considering. But for the rest of us, Magic in the Moonlight makes for decidedly depressing viewing.
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