Posted by: playingthedevil | May 20, 2011

cassandra’s dream

this year’s woody allen movie, midnight in paris, just opened. while i’ve been avoiding the trailer, as i always do with movies i want to see, it seems like a wait-for-dvd tier of woody allen movie. after having larry david as his spokesperson, owen wilson seems like a huge step down. the story doesn’t sound too interesting either. it reminds me of everyone says i love you,which is one of his best, minus the music.

waiting until dvd also means that i may not get to it years later. which is what i realized after trying to pick a woody allen movie that i haven’t seen. apparently there are quite a few(mostly the last decade). cassandra’s dream was picked because siff, which also just started, has a tribute to ewan mcgregor.

as a lapsed woody allen fan, i haven’t really love any of his movies since deconstructing harry, which came out in 97. he followed that up with his worst movie, celebrity. i checked out some time after his pact with the devil steven spielberg’s dreamwork. his bests, i would say, are annie hall/manhattan, hannah and her sisters/crimes and misdemeanors, and everyone says i love you/deconstructing harry. nothing since then has done anything for me. match point was highly overrated and whatever works only works because of larry david.

as the last of his london trilogy, after match point and scoop, cassandra’s dream is about two brothers, played by ewan mcgregor (eye of the beholder, nightwatch, a life less ordinary, the island, deception, obi-wan kenobi) and colin farrell (american outlaws, daredevil, s.w.a.t. colon movie film, miami vice colon movie film) who are working class south londoner. mcgregor is stuck running his father’s restaurant while farrell works as a mechanic/gambling addict. they also have a rich plastic surgeon uncle whom the family relies on, at least financially. the word “family,” as in most tragedies, greek or shakepearean or otherwise, is crucial here.

the movie opens with the brothers buying a rundown boat. they can afford it because farrell’s character has a good streak at the dog race. i don’t know if they know anything about greek mythology, but naming the boat cassandra’s dream is probably not a good luck charm. in the movie, it is explained that the dog that farrell’s character betted on is named cassandra’s dream.

we're on a boat!

but of course, their luck took a turn for the worse after the boat. farrell’s character’s luck changed and is in a gambling debt. mcgregor’s character traded in his waitress love interest for an actress. in other words, they both need money. and this is where the rich uncle(tom wilkinson) comes in. they ask the uncle for money is not unexpected, but the favor that the uncle asks for in return is what drives the movie. the scene where the two brothers and the uncle talk in the woods is the best sequence in the movie. though i could have done without the ominous thunder in the background. the rich uncle’s favor, is for the two brothers to rub out a whistleblower who would expose the uncle’s dirty business.

i’m sure i’m in the minority here (the film was supposed to be released in december for award opportunities but after the lukewarm reactions from advanced screenings it was pushed to the january deadspot release date) but i’ll go on record to say that i like cassandra’s dream more than match point. whereas match point is slow and boring(it’s no coincident that match point is woody allen’s lengthiest picture) and a repeat of crimes and misdemeanors, cassandra’s dream feels less like a repeat that most critics accuse it of. it feels less like a woody allen movie but more in the great tradition of british crime story. instead of a morality tale like crimes and misdemeanors and match point, cassandra’s dream feels more like a noir thriller character study. it would have gotten way better reviews if no one knew that it was written and directed by woody allen. at the same time, knowing that it’s a woody allen movie one can safely assumes that the actual crime and certain crime related logic would not be the focus. as far as auteurs going out of their range, i would say woody allen is better at doing british crime noir than say, wim wenders doing murder mystery, john woo doing sci-fi, sam raimi doing tent pole picture book movies, or brian de palma doing social issue drama. i’m more than willing to give allen some leeway and not spend half the review doing a fruitless comparison like some critic to the similar before the devil knows you’re dead since working class crime drama is what sidney lumet is known for.

there are also complaints about the accents and dialogues, where apparently everyone becomes linguist all of a sudden. as a north american, i can’t say that i am expert in how working class londoner talk. i thought mcgregor (scottish) and farrell (irish) are great in their parts, especially farrell, simply because his part is more interesting and flashier. it probably helps that farrell went to rehab in real life and knows a thing or two about addiction. tom wilkinson (duplicity, green hornet colon movie film) kicks ass as usual.

[here would have been a clip of that awesome hilarious opening scene from duplicity with tom wilkinson and paul giamatti. i have the dvd but was unable to find the clip on line. as far as clive owen/paul giamatti movies go, duplicity is no shoot em’ up, but that’s true of pretty much any movies.]

i suppose there are elements that reminded people of most allen movies, from greek tragedies to class struggle to morality issues to the ironies. but i think this time he created a universe and interesting characters that another movie could be made with the same characters without the plot. more importantly, it feels new as far as woody allen movie is concerned. it’s more about regular folks committing the crime than the aftermath of a crime. it’s a double-edged sword to me, liking a woody allen movie because it doesn’t seem like a woody allen movie. i would say i prefer more of his movies like this(and stardust memories and shadows and fog) than say, his dreamwork period. cassandra’s dream doesn’t quite reach the kieslowski level like crimes and misdemeanors, but then it’s also more interesting and entertaining than the overrated crimes and misdemeanors british remake. i don’t know what people are complaining about when the rolling stones is stooping to this:

 

 

 

 

3/4 woodys


Responses

  1. I agree with you; Cassandra’s Dream > Match Point. Cannot believe so many people like Match Point it’s horrific pastiche of upper class English life is embarrassing. Had to watch it through my fingers.

    Don’t give up on Woody yet the master has still got it!

    • i think it’s a sign among unique filmmakers that the critics, the masses and individuals have various reactions to their works. i haven’t exactly given up on him though the last woody allen movie i really love is deconstructing harry, which is almost 15 years ago. i am pretty happy for him that midnight in paris, even though i haven’t seen it yet, is now turning out to be his highest grossing movie.

      i do like whatever works more than you did, but mostly because i am a curb fan and loves larry david, who’s just about the perfect w.a. stand in.


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