it's an excellent and probably refreshing piece of work

Film "Woody's next film, Match Point has been made in London, with his next being set there as well. That should give him a shot in the arm creatively. But frankly on the basis of this I don't think he needs it." -- From my review of Melinda and Melinda

Back on the defensive again. Another year, another Woody Allen film. Well actually it was six months what with the log jam in the release schedule, but Match Point turns up in reasonable time, a prime candidate for the awards season with nominations all over the place. Despite all of that the critics have still not been too kind. Most of the reviews have charged him with trying and failing to imprint his Americanised or New Yorker writing and directing onto London. I've even see a whole piece of writing dedicated to picking holes in the dialogue and acting style. All of which suggests, again, that they're under the impression that Allen is just churning this stuff out without taking particular directorial decisions as to the mise-en-scene of the piece.

Admittedly as the film begins and for about the first ten or fifteen minutes things do seem a bit queer. The clipped accents; characters talking in full sentences; the sometimes odd pronounciations. But somewhere in there I realised that actually what was happening is that Allen was imprinting a pre-sixties filmmaking style into the contemporary setting. Compare the work which is going on here with David Lean's pictures (particular Brief Encounter) or Gaslight productions and it all makes perfect sense. It could be argued that this is because those of the British films the director has been exposed, so of course that's what he'll be doing. But I think he's just decided to go in that direction. I think he could have produced something more akin to the Working Title or much more contemporary, but because of the type of story he's trying to tell he's gone for something akin to the earlier days of British filmmaking. Watched under those conditions, it's an excellent and probably refreshing piece of work.

If there is anything wrong with the film, it's that it lacks a levity which might have helped conterpoint some of the archier moments. In other words, more humour. I'm not sure whether it was at script or editing stage, but it's almost as though the director has attacked the piece and edited out anything resembling a joke should it get in the way of the tragedy. It's almost as though he's decided to try the Melinda and Melinda experiment again and taken what should be a British sex comedy and sent it on a whole other darker tragectory. In many ways I'm also reminded of the Claude Lelouche film, La Cérémonie which frightened the life out me whilst I was at university.

I've a feeling that something of this was certainly lost in the editing stage, particular considering the number of British comic actors who appear, generally in very minor roles. Every few minutes someone like Doctor Who's Mark Gatiss appears for a few frames, smiles then totters off, happy in the knowledge that they can say they've worked with Woody Allen and played ping-pong with Scarlett Johansson. John Fortune is there too and even Paul Kaye puts in an appearance -- I wonder if Woody even knew he was Dennis Pennis in a former life, parodying his very demeanor. In fact, despite the stella work of Johansson, Jon Rhys-Meyers and Emily Mortimer that most of the audience will walk away remembering the police scenes at the end with Ewen Bremner and James Nesbitt, doing an amazing Jimmy Stewart impression. If this had been the 1940s, a new film series featuring their characters Banner and Dowd would already have been greenlit.

Match Point offers many such incidental pleasures, not least the fact that you're watching an obviously Woody Allen film set in London. All of the familiar camera techniques and wierd improv are present and correct. Only Woody would produce what's being distributed a major mainstream release and open it with his usual black on white titles and an opera recording which sounds like its been transfered from a old 78. As usual the film's in mono (so look forward to straining your ears if you're in a multiplex -- the only surround sound here is the ICON pictures logo at the start). There's an amazing pissed exposition scene from a Johansson which overshadows Ken Branagh in Peter's Friends for reality. The role in the hay in the rain scene. Penelope Wilton and Brian Cox are exactly the society parents you would expect. I think I'll let the film marinate in my memory for a few months so that I can enjoy the dvd release even more.

No comments:

Post a comment