Went to see Woody Allen’s You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger yesterday. A little bit late, though, but better than never. Before stepping in the cinema, I already had a bad feeling about it. If the only reaction after watching his few latest movies was a sad sigh, why would this be any better? But it was.
Nevertheless, if you still live in the past, and hearing of a Woody Allen film makes you picture the unhealthy Manhattan intellectual surrounded by charming ladies à la Annie Hall, you will be disappointed. This guy is long gone, and so is the typical Allen New York-cinema. Obviously, it is not gone for good.
Already after watching Match Point (2005), I started to ask myself, whether the change of continent in his settings is a will to clearly mark a rupture between the New-yorker movie genre (that he had created himself) and Allen-the-director who doesn’t want to continue making movies under the same label. On the other hand, moving to Europe has slightly improved the quality of Allen’s films. As he had started a new chapter. A more interesting, than the one one he was doing a decade ago. At least, the pictures shot in the old continent are less pretentious to be a true Woody film, like those he made more than 20 years ago (of course, I must exclude Whatever Works, which is sort of back to the roots).
Some dimensions of his signature are still perceptible. The pleasure of ironizing others’ misfortunes is more than present. He still enjoys to put his characters in unenviable situations. In You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Allen takes the liberty to emphasize this irony by a voice-over, which explicitly tells every little detail.
The whole film itself reminds of a great farce, at some point similar to Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie in the sense, that the characters never succeed to accomplish what they have planned. You’ll Meet a Tall Dark Stranger focuses on dysfunctional marriages in two generations. And the saddest/funniest part of it is that even getting out of these marriages does not solve anything. The mother, left by her husband after 40 years marriage seeks comfort in bottle and is being constantly robbed by a fraud of a clairvoyant. Her ex-husband is in the very middle of taking viagra and resolving his major-fail marriage with a Cockney hooker. In the meantime, Sally, the daughter is in a global dissatisfaction with her life. And her husband has wrongly imagined that he is a writer. Nothing really works here.
That is pretty much the value of this movie. The bonus being Woody Allen is that he’s free of the obligation to solve anything. Leave the big mess untouched, the spectator will work on it after the ending*.
* But he or she will still miss the witty and twisted scenes from the Manhattan era.