Monday, January 6, 2020

Rome Journal: Woody Allen's "A Rainy Day in New York"

Can we say that at the end of one’s career as well as life, all of  existence passes by. That was the theme of Bergman’s masterpiece Wild StrawberriesIn A Rainy Day in New York, the Woody Allen film currently being released in Rome and elsewhere in Europe (but not the States), this occurs to decidedly disappointing effect. All the familiar citations are there from Ortega y Gasset and Derrida, the kind of music played at the Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle,   Central Park (where the film attempts a romantic finale) and even a cameo appearance from Sargent's "Portrait of Madame X" at the Met. The screenplay writer Ted Davidoff (Jude Law) catches his wife coming out of the The Albert on University after a tryst, and a temperamental director Rolland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) who once made a film about Venice, a la Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (l996), recuses himself to the Astoria Film Studios. The protagonist is named Gatsby Welles  (Timothy Chalamet) and there’s talk about romantic meetings under a clock (like the one where Holden Caufield meets Sally Hayes in The Catcher in the Rye)The whole Allen crew is intact with Santo Loquasto on sets and Vittorio Storaro cinematography. Even the typeface of credits is the same. Further, Allen is still attracting name actors, despite the fact that he can’t get distribution in the States. However in terms of its setting, A Rainy Day In New York is a faint shadow of movies like Manhattan and Annie Hall. Trite aphoristisms and flimsy quips take the place of memorable and sparking dialogue. Gatsby’s brother innocently asks about his brother’s date, who turns out to be a prostitute, “you think a girl like that wants to live from hand to mouth?” There's a generational perversity to the film too. Most of the youthful characters seem to inhabit the lifestyles of an older generation and despite all his controversies Allen’s not afraid of broaching the tired theme of older men's infatuation with younger women.The characters of the director, his screenwriter and a heartthrob Francisco Vega (Diego Luna) all fall for Gatsby’s 21 year old girlfriend Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning). Allen should probably be commended for speaking his truth. However, the universe of the move is so hackneyed and self-referential as to verge on being a parody of Allen himself. Allen’s New York was always a wonderful romantic comedy illusion, but in the case of A Rainy Day in New York, it’s impossible to suspend disbelief long enough to enjoy it. 

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