Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: Cassandra's Dream (2007)

Then Even though Scoop was overlooked for a cinema released, Cassandra’s Dream had a relatively smooth passage into cinemas, perhaps because crime thrillers are easier to advertise. Having waited six months to see it, I then waited another six months for the dvd which I saw in January 2009. I didn’t like it. And said so. A lot:
”But Cassandra’s Dream is rubbish. It might even be offensively bad.”
Now I don’t think I need to quote much more from that review. You can go and read it for yourself. I took umbrage with much of the film only singling out Hayley Atwell and Vilmos Zsigmond’s photography for praise. I hated the structure, the scripting, the dialogue and the performances. I speak of clockwatching and booing and whilst it doesn’t stoop to the level of my Company Men response in terms of cheap jokes I’m was very pissed off. Indeed.

On second viewing I’ve been trying to work out exactly why I my reaction against the film quite so fierce. It’s not rubbish. It’s not “offensively bad”. Cassandra’s Dream certainly better than some of the ITV Drama Premieres it sometimes resembles and whilst it’s true that it’s near impossible to be sympathetic towards these brothers, that’s also true of Macbeth. Morality plays and tragedies are supposed to illuminate the extremes of human weakness and it does that admirably.

Having watched Hitchcock’s Frenzy in the meantime and a couple of seventies exploitation thrillers, I can see the influence of those, consciously or not with big scenes played against small crusty rooms, in dirty garages and racetracks. As possibilities open up to the brothers, so the landscape changes, the room increase in size and the drinking establishments become more upmarket and such things seem to expand and contract depending upon which brother is ahead.

Philip Glass’s music is excellent too; there is touch of the Bernard Hermanns about the main theme as filtered through Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Basic Instinct. Woody rarely uses original scores on his films; here it pays dividends naturalising some of the scenes and allowing him to cut the action as he sees fit rather than around the score which was the case in Match Point. As he says in this rather good interview about the film, he wanted to simply compliment the action (rather than, I suppose, trying to add an extra thematic layer).

My initial problem with the film, as best I can gather, was this: if you were to strip the titles and hand it sight unseen to someone and ask them who directed it they would most likely guess at a British director, they could not say Woody Allen. Because it’s set in London, because it’s as close as he’ll get to a traditional thriller, because the dialogue though heightened sounds like it was written by someone else, possibly Pinter, because even though on close inspection you can identify some stylistic similarities, it has as much to do with the Allen’s auteur style as Topaz had for Hitchcock.

But it’s really not that ghastly. Not really.

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