Friday, August 16, 2013
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen (Part 3)
Part 3: Jean Doumanian & the Post-Scandal Years (1993-2003)
Manhattan Murder Mystery
With the dissolution of his relationship with actress Mia Farrow, Woody Allen decided to move forward with his next project. Back in the late 70s, Allen had conceived a storyline in an early draft for Annie Hall that later became its own story. Allen eventually revisited the script in the early 90s as he called in his old writing partner Marshall Brickman to help him flesh out the script that would finally become a suspense-comedy called Manhattan Murder Mystery. The film would be about a couple who suspect that their new neighbor had killed his wife as they turn to a novelist and a mystery buff for help in figuring out what is really going on.
After completing the script with Brickman, Allen originally wanted the film to have he and Mia Farrow as the lead roles of Larry and Carol Lipton but the dissolution of their relationship forced Allen to re-think things. Allen decided to call in his old friend and collaborator Diane Keaton to play the role of Carol as she accepted the role where she brought something different to the part than Allen originally intended. With the cast that would include Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston, who had both made appearances in Crimes & Misdemeanors a few years ago, along with Jerry Adler, Lynn Cohen, Ron Rifkin, Joy Behar, and a newcomer named Zach Braff making his film debut in a small appearance as Larry and Carol’s college-student son. Filming officially began in the fall of 1992.
With Allen’s longtime collaborators that would include cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, production designer Santo Loquasto, costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, sound editor Robert Hein, editor Susan E. Morse, and casting director Juliet Taylor. The film’s production went smooth despite a brief appearance from Mia Farrow on the first day that definitely made things uneasy as she would never set foot on an Allen set ever again. Allen wanted to maintain the same sense of looseness that he had with his previous film as he and Carlo Di Palma aimed for more hand-held camera shots as well as some more low-key shots set in famous locations in New York City.
For the film’s climax, Allen decided to create a homage to Orson Welles’ The Lady from Shanghai as it would involve the killer and a jilted lover in a theater while Welles’ movie is playing at the same time. It’s a moment in the film where Allen would create this element of suspense while infusing it with humor as it would also recall some of the old films Allen did with Keaton. Notably as it became clear that several years of not working together had not made them lose their step as far as their acting chemistry was concerned.
The film premiered in August of 1993 where it received excellent reviews as well as modest take in the American box office while it was a much bigger hit in Europe. The film would garner some notices for the performances of Diane Keaton and Anjelica Huston as the film got a Cesar Award nomination for Best Foreign Film while both Keaton and Huston each earned respective nominations for the Golden Globes for Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical and a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. Though the film would be the last time Allen worked with Diane Keaton, the two still remain friends as fans are still hoping for another reunion.
Bullets Over Broadway
Wanting to create a film about the world of theater and artistic freedom, Allen decided to create a project about that world set in the 1920s as he collaborated with writer Douglas McGrath on a script about a playwright’s desire to stage his play his way while dealing with a mob boss’s girlfriend who is starring in his play. The project would revolve around a man’s desire to find satisfaction as an artist but also the trappings of success and what it takes to become an artist.
The film would mark some new beginnings for Allen as he found a home with Miramax Studios that would allow Allen the freedom to make films his way. Helping Allen to ensure that things can go well is his sister Letty Aronson who would become one of Allen’s most trusted confidants for the remainder of his career as a producer. Another person that would become a producer and help Allen secure funding and such for his films was Jean Doumanian. Doumanian was already notorious for being Lorne Michaels’ brief replacement in the much-maligned sixth season of Saturday Night Live as she would regain some ground working with Allen.
With a cast that would the return one of Allen’s great collaborators in Dianne Wiest as the veteran diva Helen Sinclair, the cast would include John Cusack, Jennifer Tilly, Chazz Palminteri, Mary-Louise Parker, Rob Reiner, Jack Warden, Joe Viterelli, Jim Broadbent, Tracey Ullman, Tony Sirico, and Harvey Fierstein. It would be a film that would explore the world of theater and a man’s desire to make work that is meaningful while it also meshes with the gangster film as it involved moments of violence but in a stylized manner. Allen also wanted to showcase a world where not everyone has talent while the bodyguard of the gangster’s girlfriend is possessed with talent to bring ideas that reveal his gift as a storyteller.
Allen also infused some gags into the film that would play into some of the humor such as the fact that Jim Broadbent’s character is a compulsive eater, Jennifer Tilly’s character isn’t very good at acting despite her best efforts, and that Tracey Ullman’s character often brings her dog to the rehearsals. It would be balanced by the drama where John Cusack’s character is a man eager to succeed where his first line in the film is that he’s claims to be an artist as it would play into that evolution of his character. Notably as he would reveal the many sacrifices one would take into making great art where there are compromises to be made not just on an artistic front but also from a human perspective.
The film premiered in the spring of 1994 where it did modestly well in the box office despite its limited release while it was a major hit with critics. The film would also gain numerous accolades including six Oscar nominations including Best Screenplay, Best Direction, a Best Supporting nomination for Chazz Palminteri, and a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Jennifer Tilly while Dianne Wiest was also nominated as she would win another Oscar for her performance.
Don't Drink the Water (1994 TV Film)
The production of Bullets Over Broadway inspired Allen to return one of his old theatrical works in a play he made in 1966 called Don’t Drink the Water about an American family who are stuck in an American embassy in Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The play was one of Allen’s most successful works as it would be made into a film back in 1969 starring Jackie Gleason. Allen was unhappy with the 1969 film as he decided to revisit the play as he would make into a film for television where he would play the role that Gleason played in the 1969 film.
Allen gather most of his collaborators for the production while the cast would include one of his regular actresses in Julie Kavner as well as Michael J. Fox, Josef Sommer, Mayim Bialik, Edward Herrmann, Austin Pendleton, and Dom DeLuise. The TV film would utilize bits of stock footage while it was mostly shot in a soundstage playing as the embassy where many of the elements in the TV film recalled many of Allen’s earlier works in comedy. Notably as it involved all sorts of gags including the fact that Dom DeLuise’s priest character is a wannabe magician.
The TV film premiered on ABC in December of 1994 where it got a good reception from critics and audiences as it is considered one of the rare finds from Allen as it doesn’t appear on TV very often. Still, the project gave Allen the chance to do things his way as well as do things right that the 1969 feature film didn’t do for him.
Inspired by George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, Allen decided to use that story as the basis for his next film involving a man trying to find out who is the mother of his adopted son as it is revealed that the woman is a ditzy prostitute who aspires to become an actress. Notably as it play to that man’s deteriorating marriage as well as obsession about his adopted son’s growing intelligence. A lot of its story would be told by a Greek chorus for parts of the film as well as breaking the fourth wall of the story for the main characters to interact with the Greek chorus.
With Allen playing the lead role of Lenny Weinrib, the cast would include Helena Bohnam Carter, Mira Sorvino, Peter Weller, and Michael Rapaport while the Greek chorus would include F. Murray Abraham, Olympia Dukakis, David Odgen Stiers, and Jack Warden. Though much of the production was set in New York City, Allen decided to shoot many of the Greek chorus scenes at the Teatro Greco in Taormina on the island of Sicily in Italy. Allen hired choreographer Graciela Daniele for the dancing scenes involving the Greek chorus while keeping things straightforward for the scenes in New York.
Allen wanted to explore the world of a man trying to get to know this woman to see if she possessed the brilliance that her son has inherited as she has no idea that he’s the adopted father of the son she gave up many years ago. Notably as he tries to improve this woman in the hopes that his son can be proud of his real-life mother yet it would later play to a sense of irony that would occur in the film’s ending. Even as it is told by the members of the Greek chorus who also provide commentary on the many situations of the film as it ends on a musical note.
The film made its premiere at the 1995 Toronto Film Festival that September while getting a limited release in late October in the U.S. The film was another hit with the critics while its American box office was modest but the film did make a profit thanks to Allen’s reputation in Europe where the film was a major hit. The film received many accolades for Mira Sorvino whose breakthrough performance would win her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress while Allen would receive another Best Original Screenplay nomination.
Everyone Says I Love You
The experience of doing musical numbers in Mighty Aphrodite gave Allen the chance to create an idea in which he would make a film about love in the form of a musical. Though the genre hadn’t made waves in nearly 20 years, Allen decided to take a risk by making the film into a musical as he and longtime collaborator Dick Hyman decided to use many standards as the film’s soundtrack for the cast to sing with some updated lyrics. There, Allen wouldn’t have to rely on original music nor an original score while having the songs be all about love.
With Allen also starring in the film with appearances from longtime Allen collaborators Alan Alda and David Odgen Stiers, the cast would include a wide array of actors like Goldie Hawn, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Edward Norton, Billy Crudup, Lukas Haas, Natalie Portman, Gaby Hoffmann, Natasha Lyonne, and Tim Roth. With the exception of Drew Barrymore (whose voice was sung by Olivia Hayman), many of the actors in the film did their own singing including Allen in order to create something much more natural instead of relying on actual vocal talents.
After years of shooting exclusively in New York City and other parts in the U.S. with the exception of a few scenes in Italy for Mighty Aphrodite, Allen decided to have scenes shot in Paris and Venice to help tell a story about an upper-class family in New York City where Allen’s character lived in Paris dealing with heartbreak while still having feelings for his ex-wife. Much of the film was set in New York City as it included storylines such as Goldie Hawn’s character as Allen’s ex-wife trying to find meaning her life as an activist where she gets a man out of prison who almost breaks up her stepdaughter’s engagement to another man.
Along with subplots about young girls falling in love where Natasha Lyonne’s character was the main narrator for the film. There was a subplot involving Lukas Haas’ character as he plays Alan Alda’s son who had given in to conservative politics as scenes with Liv Tyler as a fellow conservative ended up being cut out of the film. For the scenes in Venice, Allen shot a lot of those scenes as his character tries to court Julia Roberts as an unhappily-married woman looking for love. Allen also provided some dance numbers including a climatic dance number in Paris involving partygoers dressed up like the Marx Brothers.
The film premiered in December of 1996 where it got wonderful reviews with critics as well as some detractors who hated Allen’s approach to the musical. While the film was a modest hit in the American box office, it was an even bigger hit around the world including Europe as the overseas gross of $24 million helped Allen more than recoup the film’s $20 million budget. Yet, the film would mark the beginning of key departures from Allen’s camp of collaborators as it was the last film produced by Robert Greenhut as well as the last contribution from longtime costume designer Jeffrey Kurland who had worked with Allen since the early 80s.
With two back-to-back worldwide hits under his belt, Allen decided to go into a different territory with his next film as he looked towards the work of Ingmar Bergman once again for his next project. In a story that would have similarities to 1957 film Wild Strawberries as well as ideas from Federico Fellini’s 8 ½, Allen’s next project would be about a writer dealing with his past and relationships with other people in his life just as he’s about to return to his old university to receive an award. While Allen would put his own spin into that story, he would do something that was very daring in the story including the use of profanity as Allen would use a lot of it even though Allen had used profanity in some of his recent films but in a minimal manner.
With Allen playing the lead role of Harry Block, the cast would include regulars Judy Davis, Mariel Hemingway, Julie Kavner, and Bob Balaban as well as appearances from Julia-Louis Dreyfus, Demi Moore, Billy Crystal, Elisabeth Shue, Robin Williams, Kirstie Alley, Eric Bogosian, Caroline Aaron, Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Garner, Paul Giamatti, Stanley Tucci, Amy Irving, and Hazelle Goodman. The film would blur the lines between fiction and reality as Block’s work would collide with his own real life as he is a man full of despicable traits as well as doing things that are considered selfish.
While the film is a comedy, a lot of the content was very dark as it features an appearance from Death confronting a character that Block created where that character claimed he isn’t that person only for Death to reply “don’t bullshit me”. Other storylines in Block’s story included a hilarious scene in which Julia-Louis Dreyfus is having sex with another man as they’re unaware that a blind relative is in the same room while another scene involved Robin Williams who is literally out of focus by many as it plays into one of the many silly moments of the film. All of which dealt with Block’s own writer’s block and the guilt he’s carrying over his life.
The film would culminate with a great sequence in which Harry’s own real-life and fantasy would collide in Harry’s own version of Hell that features longtime collaborator Santo Loquasto’s rapturous set design. In many ways, it’s a moment that is filled with a lot of dark humor and drama where Allen brings up a very warped idea of Hell where his character confronts Satan in the form of a rival. It is in that moment where it plays to many of the silliness of Allen’s comedy as well as taking some major risks with his work.
The film premiered in the U.S. in December of 1997 where it film divided audiences and critics over its language as it many felt that Allen had gone too far though some felt it was refreshing for Allen to take on some risks. Still, the film did modestly well in the U.S. box office while Allen would receive another Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film also marked the final collaboration between Allen and cinematographer Carlo Di Palma as the two tried to reunite years later but never happened as Di Palma would later die in 2004.
With the world of celebrity culture becoming more prominent, Allen decided to explore that world for his next film in the hopes he can reach a younger audience who were just discovering his work. The project would revolve around a couple who had just divorced as both take on diverging paths into the world of celebrity culture. A travel writer whose midlife crisis forces him to become a celebrity journalist in the hopes he can become a famous writer while his ex-wife is an insecure English teacher who finds herself working for a TV producer whom she falls for.
Though Allen originally wrote the lead role for himself, he decided to have British actor Kenneth Branagh play Lee Simon while Allen regular Judy Davis play the role of his ex-wife Robin. With a cast that would include Joe Mantegna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, Melanie Griffith, Winona Ryder, Famke Janssen, Hank Azaria, Bebe Neuwirth, and Michael Lerner. The film would also include cameos from filmmakers, models, fashion designers, TV reporters, and others to play up that crazy world of celebrity culture.
Shot in New York City, Allen brought in Sven Nykvist to shoot the film as it would the final film Nykvist would shoot for his career as he and Allen aimed for a black-and-white look. Notably as he wanted to create something that was very different but also had an element of style. A lot of which featured scenes in which the Lee Simon character would stumble his way through this chaotic world as if he wanted to be a part of it. The film would also play into the world of film culture as well as some of the drawbacks of the art film world as some believed it to be pretentious where Allen cast theater director Andre Gregory as an art house filmmaker.
The film premiered at the 1998 Venice Film Festival in September of that year as it would also play the New York Film Festival later that month before getting its theatrical release in November. Though the film did modestly well in the U.S. box office, the film did divide critics and audiences as some enjoyed the film for its exploration on celebrity culture while many criticized the film for rehashing many ideas as well as the casting of Kenneth Branagh in the lead. With cinematographer Sven Nykvist retiring from filmmaking altogether after this film, another departure from the Allen camp would be in editor Susan E. Morse who had worked with Allen since 1979’s Manhattan as the film also ended Allen’s four-year tenure with Miramax Films.
Sweet and Lowdown
Allen’s love for jazz music has always been in the mind for Allen where in the early 70s, he had created a script about a jazz musician in the 1930s called The Jazz Baby. Allen submitted the project to executives at United Artists in the early 1970s but they rejected it because it wasn’t a comedy as the script had been abandoned for many years as Allen feared it was too ambitious to be mounted. Then in the late 1990s, Allen revisited the script which he re-worked into a project called Sweet and Lowdown that would tell the story about a famed jazz guitarist named Emmet Ray who was considered the greatest guitarist in the world with the exception of his idol Django Reinhardt.
Inspired by Federico Fellini’s 1954 film La Strada, Allen decided to make the film into a comedy-drama about Ray’s life as this famed musician and his love affair with mute woman whom he treated very selfishly as he tried to get his career on the ground. Even as Ray would do whatever to become famous despite his lavish spending and sleeping around with other women as he would later realize the mistakes he made in his life. Allen considered getting Johnny Depp to play the role of Ray but Depp was unable to take part due to other commitments as Allen finally approached Sean Penn to play the role which he accepted. With the famed jazz guitarist Howard Alden coaching Penn to learn how to play jazz guitar for the role while Alden would do all of the solos in the music. Allen approached comedy actress/TV host Rosie O’Donnell to play the role of Ray’s mute lover Hattie.
Instead, O’Donnell refused due to her ambivalence towards Allen’s personal life as Allen and casting director Juliet Taylor chose rising British actress Samantha Morton to play the role of Hattie. Morton, who admittedly had no clue who the Marx Brothers are, was asked by Allen to watch some films starring the Marx Brothers to get an idea of how to approach her performance where Morton brought that kind of physicality but also a sweetness to her role that would make Hattie into one of Allen’s great characters. With a cast that would include Uma Thurman, Anthony LaPaglia, filmmaker John Waters, Brad Garrett, and Gretchen Mol. Allen would also be in the film with his Bullets Over Broadway co-writer Douglas McGrath and some jazz experts as they would tell Ray’s story in a documentary-like fashion.
With the production shot in New York and New Jersey, Allen got the services of famed Chinese cinematographer Zhao Fei to help shoot the film while Susan E. Morse’s new replacement came in the form of Alisa Lepselter who would become Allen’s new editor for the next several years. While the film had a mixture of documentary-style mixed in with a dramatic narrative, it was all fiction as it played to the messy life of Emmet Ray in the way he managed his career and personal life. Notably in his relationship with Hattie as he would later leave her to pursue other interests and other women where it would later come to haunt him after meeting her again.
Released through Sony’s new Sony Picture Classics specialty distribution on September of 1999, the film drew rave reviews for Allen as it also did modestly well in the box office. The film also gained a lot of notices for the performances of Sean Penn and Samantha Morton as they both received Oscar nominations respectively for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The film helped end the 90s on a high note for Allen as he was about to enter the 21st Century.
Small Time Crooks
After signing a new five-picture deal with Dreamworks, Allen was given the chance to create the films he wanted to make without getting the pressure to make his film more appealing to a wide audiences. Allen decided to return to some of his earlier films to make a comedy about the downside of being wealthy where it involves a former convict and his wife where their plans to rob a bank goes south when the wife’s cookie shop becomes a big hit as they become rich. The project would play into the expectations about what it takes to act and be rich while unveiling some truths about the world of theft.
With Allen also starring in the film, the cast would include such previous players as Tracey Ullman, Michael Rapaport, Elaine Stritch, Larry Pine, and Tony Darrow while also starring in the film are Hugh Grant, Jon Lovitz, and Elaine May. Once again set in New York City, Allen and cinematographer Zhao Fei wanted to give the film a much livelier feel as well as play into some of the slapstick in which Allen’s character tries to rob a bank by digging a tunnel under the buildings to reach its vault. Even in scenes where some of the humor is improvised that includes a moment where Michael Rapaport tries to convince Allen’s character to move his miner’s hat backwards because it looks cool.
With Tracey Ullman playing Allen’s wife, the film would explore the world of the rich and wealthy as Ullman’s character is desperate to be accepted as she takes etiquette lessons in being rich and cultured from Hugh Grant’s shady art dealer character. Allen called on his longtime production designer Santo Loquasto to create a penthouse that is full of strange and cheesy things to play up Ullman’s lack of knowledge about what true art is and such. Adding to the film’s humor is Elaine May’s performance as Ullman’s loopy cousin where it was May’s first film appearance in a decade as she would display a kind of strange chemistry in her scenes with Allen.
The film was released in May of 2000 where it got some good reviews from critics while it also did modestly well in the U.S. box office as it was a bigger hit around the world. While some considered the film to be a minor Allen film, it still offered something his longtime fans had in terms of its humor. Tracey Ullman got a Golden Globe Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical nomination while Elaine May won a Best Supporting Actress prize from the National Society of Film Critics as it would be her last involvement with film for many years.
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Wanting to take his approach to slapstick comedy further, Allen decided to make his next project into an old-fashioned 1940s mystery film about an insurance investigator and an efficiency expert who reluctantly work together to find out the mysterious thefts of some jewels as they’re unaware that they’re the thieves working for a mysterious hypnotist. The project would be an ambitious one as it would end up being Allen’s most expensive project to date with a budget of $26 million due to its staging as well Allen’s insistence in making things authentic.
The cast would feature a few of Allen’s previous players like Charlize Theron, Wallace Shawn, and David Odgen Stiers while it would also include Helen Hunt, Elizabeth Berkley, Dan Aykroyd, and Brian Markinson. For the lead role, Allen approached both Tom Hanks and Jack Nicholson to play the part but neither were available forcing Allen to play the lead role of C.W. Briggs. The production was very difficult as Allen had a hard time trying to keep things lively but also maintain some authenticity to the period. Making matters worse during the production was when longtime producer Jean Doumanian told Allen to get new funding within 48 hours as it would create a lot of trouble on set.
Though Allen was able to get the funding he needed, the setback only created problems between Allen and Doumanian as Allen sued her in May of 2001 over finances with claims that Doumanian and her partner Jacqui Sarfa had taken some money from his movie profits. Though the suit was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum of money, it definitely made Allen uneasy as the production continued as he was becoming unsure if he was right for lead.
The film premiered in August of 2001 where it received some lukewarm reviews from critics who felt it was one of Allen’s worst films as Allen himself would agree with the critics. The film only made $7 million in the U.S. with a total worldwide gross of $18.9 million giving Allen a flop as it would begin a period in which Allen would face some failures in his professional career.
Sounds from a Town I Love
The attacks on September 11, 2001 on the World Trade Center was one of the most devastating moments in the history of the world as New York City was hit hard. On October 20, 2001, a benefit concert to honor the city’s police department and firemen in their response to the attacks was held as eight filmmakers were asked to make a short film about the city. Among them were such famed local filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, Edward Burns, Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, Ric Burns, Christian Charles, and comedian Jerry Seinfeld. Woody Allen was one of those who asked to make the short as he did as he brought in his old collaborators Marshall Brickman and Tony Roberts to appear along with actors Celia Weston, Bebe Neuwirth, Michael Emerson, Austin Pendelton, and Griffin Dunne.
It’s essentially a short in which people talk on their cell phones all across the city acting neurotic or frustrated as it is all told in a humorous manner. The short was among one of the highlights of the concert as well as a great tribute to the city. At the 74th Academy Awards in March of 2002, Allen made a rare public appearance to present a tribute to the city of New York and its history with cinema as it was a very funny moment proving that Allen still had what it takes to be funny. It was also a moment to tell filmmakers not to stop making films in the city just because of a bunch of stupid terrorists.
Though Allen still had some clout as a filmmaker as he was one of the few that can do whatever he wanted and have final cut, it was becoming harder to create the kind of films that he wanted to make as studio heads were more interested in blockbusters than slapstick comedies with brains. Allen decided to make his next film be about Hollywood in some respects where it involves a once-revered filmmaker whose career has been in a downslide until his ex-wife asks him to helm a feature film in the hopes that he can have a comeback. Yet, the pressure to helm something for a studio has the director succumb to hysterical blindness where his ex-wife/producer, his agent, and a Chinese cinematographer’s translator help the director get the picture made and keep the blindness a secret.
With Allen playing the role of the filmmaker, the cast would include Tea Leoni, Treat Williams, Debra Messing, Mark Rydell, Tiffani Thiessen, and George Hamilton as they would play actors, producers, and studio executives involved in the production. With Zhao Fei unable to take part in the production, Allen called in the famed cinematographer Haskell Wexler to shoot the film. Unfortunately, Allen and the eccentric Wexler chose to part ways after a week of shooting forcing Allen to get a much lesser-known cinematographer in Wedigo von Schlutzendorff to shoot the film. Allen also tried to get his old editor Susan E. Morse back to the fold but was unable to due to budget restraints forcing to stick with her replacement Alisa Lepselter.
The film played into the many aspects of what goes on in a big-budget film where Allen incorporated a lot of jokes about his character’s blindness as well as other things such foreign cinematographers being frustrated, art directors wanting elaborate sets, journalists trying to gather many secrets into the sets, and secret dailies. All of which was to maintain some kind of humor as Allen wanted to make it as funny as he can. Yet, he also wanted to include a bit of drama as it relates to his character’s relationship with his ex-wife as she’s becoming more concerned about what is happening to him.
The film was released in early May of 2002 in the U.S. where it got a mixed reception while its box office take was disappointing. Later that month at the Cannes Film Festival, the film played out of competition where it got a better reception with critics and audiences helping Allen to ensure his popularity in Europe. Unfortunately, its reception in Europe wasn’t able big enough to get the film get a theatrical release in Britain as it marked another slump for Allen in a very dour period for the filmmaker.
After two back-to-back disappointing features, Allen aimed to return to the romantic comedy genre in the hopes to boost his career. This time around, he decided to make a film based on his own life experiences as a young writer who seeks the help from an older artist on advice on life and art. With Allen deciding to play a supporting role as the older struggling artist with a history of mental illness, it would be a project that would also be a romantic comedy about a young man’s life as he’s dealing with his troubled relationship with his current girlfriend.
In need to reach the film to a younger audience, Allen got Jason Biggs to play the lead role of Jerry Falk and Christina Ricci as his flighty girlfriend as the cast would also include Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing, KaDee Strickland, and Jimmy Fallon. Allen wanted the film to be a reunion between himself and his old cinematographer Carlo Di Palma but insurance reasons forced Allen to hire another cinematographer in Darius Khondji. Shooting began in 2002 where Allen wanted to use as many locations to play up this young man’s journey into being a top comedy writer.
One device Allen decided to use to help tell the story was have his protagonist break the fourth wall down and talk to the audience to give his own feelings about what his happening such as the fact that his girlfriend is always late or always want to do something that he doesn’t want to do. Allen would also incorporate moments where his character would give Jerry Falk a lot of bad advice about everything including the right to bear arms, spy on his girlfriend, and firing his agent all of which would play into some very horrific moments. Eventually forcing Falk to make decisions on his own about himself and his career where it would make him realize that he and his girlfriend were never right for each other.
The film premiered in late August of 2003 as it would later open the Venice Film Festival weeks later. While the film had some fans including filmmaker/longtime Allen fan Quentin Tarantino, the film once again received mixed reviews while it also gave Allen some of his worst reviews. Even longtime Allen fans had problems with the film as some believed it to be Allen’s worst. In this newfound period of some creative slumps, many believed that Woody Allen’s best years were behind him.
(End of Pt. 3)
Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 4
© thevoid99 2013