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The Lady Miz Diva:  Mr. Allen, your location choices are speculated upon perhaps more than any other director.  Whenever you shoot in New York City, the film community practically dances in the streets.  Quite a few of your movies in the last decade as well as You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger have been shot in Europe.  Does your choice of location affect your writing?

Woody Allen: It does. Itís meaningful cos itís a movie and youíre watching it and when youíre sitting in the room writing the script, youíre alone in your bedroom and itís nothing.  But then you get out there and the locations -- and Iím constantly rewriting the script for the locations.  A good example of that is Annie Hall:  I wrote the character lives in Flatbush in Brooklyn and his fatherís a cab driver and then I was with my art director and we were scouting in Brooklyn and we saw this apartment under the Cyclone, under the roller coaster, and I thought it was great and so I quickly rewrote that he was born in an apartment underneath the roller coaster and his father was not a cab driver, his father worked in Coney Island and had a concession and the whole thing was changed completely.  Iíve done that a hundred times over the years because you canít anticipate in the room the riches that you come across when youíre location hunting for a movie.

 

So did director Woody Allen share a little piece of cinematic history with me during a recent press conference.  He was on hand to discuss his latest opus, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, which takes place in London.  The riches that Allen seems to have plumbed from his time in Old Blighty makes for a light, fizzy mixture of manners and dry English wit applied to his own taste for urbane screwiness and neuroses played for laughs.

Once again delving the world of relationships and the failings therein, Allen introduces us to an older couple, played by Gemma Jones and Anthony Hopkins, dealing with the husbandís midlife crisis.  Off to the world of personal trainers and inappropriate vehicles, Alfie is running from his mortality as fast as he can and leaving his loving wife, Helena, in the dust.  Helenaís search for meaning in the death of her marriage sends her into the clutches of a soothsayer {Pauline Collins}, who is happy to dole out advice that is advantageous to them both for a fee.  Helenaís new respect for the spiritual grates on her daughter Sally {Naomi Watts} and her husband, antagonistically skeptical, out-of-work writer Roy {Josh Brolin}, who are embroiled in their own marital strife.  Royís well-received first novel was rightly called a one-hit wonder, and now, forced to take menial jobs to keep body and soul together and desperate for a creative windfall, Roy finds inspiration of another sort right outside his window when an attractive woman {Freida Pinto} moves in across the way.  Sally is feeling the pull of temptation as well, when she takes work with a sophisticated gallery owner {Antonio Banderas} who seems to need and understand her far better than Roy and is himself coping with an unhappy spouse.  Will any of these relationships be able to work around their pesky marriages and attachments?

The Woody Allen avatar for this film would be Josh Brolinís struggling author, who is in such a frantic search for his muse that small trifles like cultivating an adulterous relationship really bear no weight to him.  The worst thing that happens to Roy is not that his marriage is collapsing, but that heíll never come up with a second successful book.  The willing destruction of his relationship with his wife pales in significance next to the possibility that he might be discovered having ripped a story idea off an ill friend.  Thereís also Alfie, flailing so hard in his anxiety over his advancing golden years that any young attractive piece of flesh, even one that heís had to pay for is enough to make him feel like heís put one over on Father Time.

Meanwhile, the women struggle without the support of their men; Helena, only good at being a housewife and mother is adrift after her husbandís abandonment and her adult daughterís lack of time for her.  Not to say that her constant barging into her childís flat -- where she pays the bills Ė hasnít added its share of tension to the already fragile bond between Sally and Roy.  As does her parroting of her psychicís latest pronouncements, which Helena accepts as law even when the advice effectively has her shutting the door on Sallyís ambition to run a gallery of her own.  Yet, Helena is the one hopeful character in the film, truly believing thereís some sort of cosmic reason for all she and her loved ones are going through and refusing to give in to misery, eventually taking up with another spiritually-inclined soul who truly appreciates her.

Allenís application of a British accent over his script works effectively and as demonstrated by his cinematic debut with the screenplay for Whatís New Pussycat, Allenís comedy translates very well across the pond.  With that 1965 film, shot at the height of the swinging sixties, Allen found the right balance of naughty sex farce combined with his own screwball sensibilities.  You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is nowhere as raucous -- though Lucy Punchís hooker with the heart that accepts all major credit cards and Gemma Jonesí eccentric, gullible Helena are hilarious and steal the picture -- the director shows heís still capable of modifying his broader urges into proper British restraint.  More appealing than last yearís grating Whatever Works, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is far from a classic in the Allen oeuvre, but is still pleasantly watchable.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Sept. 22nd, 2010

 

 

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