The opening of Woody Allen’s latest release is wastefully spent on three and a half minutes of cinematography pandering to the supposed universally accepted wisdom that Paris is the most romantic city in the world. Perhaps this is some type of tribute to the opening of Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982). Allen is of course a self-confessed Bergman admirer, but, sadly, Woody’s latest offering is anything but as memorable as the Swede’s masterpiece.
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Allen has of late been an exponent of what’s known in the industry as “choiceless awareness.” A style of acting that was first harnessed by John Cassavetes in the 1950s and 1960s, and has since been contemporized by British filmmakers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, “choiceless awareness” implies that the actors are forced (at the last minute) to perform a scene with only a rudimentary idea of what it’s about, and indeed very little text to play with. This method is designed to produce unforced and authentic actions and reactions from the thespians.
Alas, Allen has apparently abandoned this method for Midnight in Paris. Choosing instead to return to his self-absorbed, would-be witty repartee. However, it is clear to all and sundry that Allen is running out of gags, as every performance (excluding Stoll as Ernest Hemingway) is stilted, weightless, lacking in freedom and spontaneity.
Confined to Allen’s “clever” dialogue with no room for “play,” the actors have either chosen to cop out or seemingly mock the text. This mocking is most notable in Adrien Brody’s gratuitous portrayal of the remarkable surrealist artist Salvador Dali. Upon meeting Wilson’s character, Brody pounds his chest, exclaiming “I am Dali! Dali!” (This introduction was obviously intended to elicit laughter!)
That's from Robert Fowler's "Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris: No style, no substance" (WSWS). Woody Allen really did become a self-parody.
That's too bad. And what's especially too bad is that he spent the last decade parodying the worst of himself when he could have offeredsomethingwith the sort of social commentary one finds in Sleeper.
I don't think everything he does sucks. But his streak ends Manhattan Murder Mystery. From Zelig to Manhattan Murder Mystery, it's non-stop greatness for the comedies. (I think all of his dramas suck and wish Crimes & Misdeamnors had been hilarious but think that's his best way to handle drama, stirred in with comedy.)
After Manhattan Murder Mystery it's been non-stop garbage with one exception: The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
(If you disagree, this is my opinion and you can take comfort in the fact that most people consider Curse to be a really bad movie.)
That film worked because Helen Hunt was strong enough to hold her own onscreen and because Dan Aykroyd was strong in his role. But most of all, it worked because it was just a little different. Whereas on too many comedies, Woody Allen repeatedly mines his own one liners over and over and over, this one allowed a freshness -- maybe because it was set in the past, maybe because hypnosis was such a huge part of the story. (Woody still seems to come alive for magic tricks.)
Since he's already spoofing himself, why doesn't he at least try to spoof Sleeper and say something about the world we're living in.