WOODY WEDNESDAY Review: ‘Café Society’ Isn’t Woody Allen’s Worst Movie CAFÉ SOCIETY Directed by Woody Allen Comedy, Drama, Romance PG-13 1h 36m Reviewed by A. O. SCOTT JULY 14, 2016

I have posted so many reviews on Woody Allen’s latest movie CAFE SOCIETY and I even posted an open letter I wrote to Woody Allen about the film. A serious theme of the afterlife is brought up in this film too. Some reviewers liked the film and the lavish surroundings in it and some did not. Below is another review.

Woody Allen got this idea from one of favorite Ingmar Bergman’s movies THE SEVENTH SEAL.

Woody Allen once said:

I’ve made perfectly decent films, but not (1963), not The Seventh Seal (1957) (“The Seventh Seal”), The 400 Blows (1959) (“The 400 Blows”) or L’avventura (1960) – ones that to me really proclaim cinema as art, on the highest level. If I was the teacher, I’d give myself a B.

Andrew Welch commented on some of Woody Allen’s influences in his article Looking at the (sometimes skewed) morality of Woody Allen’s best films:

In the late ’60s, Woody Allen left the world of stand-up comedy behind for the movies. Since then, he’s become one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. Sure, he’s had his stinkers and his private life hasn’t been without controversy. But he’s also crafted some of Hollywood’s most thought-provoking comedies. Philosophical, self-deprecating and always more than a tad pessimistic, Allen adds another title to his oeuvre this Friday with Midnight in Paris. Whether it will be remembered as one of his greatest or another flop is too early to say, but its release gives us a chance to look back at some of his most indispensable works.

Love and Death (1975)

Allen’s Love and Death owes a lot to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and the films of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. Death himself even makes an appearance, recalling the existential dread of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. But despite the movie’s many highbrow allusions, Allen is more concerned with simply having a good time. Gags and one-liners abound, making it, if not a comic masterpiece, a pretty good way to spend an hour and a half.

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman (1/2)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman Slips Into the Darkness…

I will never forget the chess match with death in Ingmar Bergman’s movie The Seventh Seal. I watched it many years ago, and then again just a year ago. It’s bleak, nihilistic atmosphere proved a foil for my theistic worldview. I remember thinking, if there is no God, then life looks like a Bergman movie, and religious people are “heroic” quixotic individuals sparring with windmills. (Watch the chess match here.)
Ingmar Bergman died today at the age of 89.
One report today writes: “When the news broke that Ingmar Bergman had died on the lonely and windswept island of Faro, off the coast of Sweden, it seemed like an appropriately tragic spot. Bergman spent a lifetime creating lonely and windswept movies: a cinema of inner life in which man was tormented by his relationship with women and with God.”
In his autobiography Bergman wrote, re. God: “I have struggled all my life with a tormented and joyless relationship with God. Faith and lack of faith, punishment, grace and rejection, all were real to me, all were imperative. My prayers stank of anguish, entreaty, trust, loathing and despair. God spoke, God said nothing. Do not turn from Thy face. The lost hours of that operation provided me with a calming message. You were born without purpose, you live without meaning, living is its own meaning. When you die, you are extinguished. From being you will be transformed to non-being. A god does not necessarily dwell among our capricious atoms. This insight has brought with it a certain security that has resolutely eliminated anguish and tumult, though on the other hand I have never denied my second (or first) life, that of the spirit.”
Bergman was married five times and had many sexual liaisons with the leading actresses in his films. He is considered to be one of the greatest, if not even the greatest, film-maker of all time. When I read of his death today I experienced a sense of loss, like the loss of an old friend. I found, in his films, an authentic representation of his experience of the non-response of God to his searching and prayers. I don’t personally affirm his conclusions, but I do find his work valuable, especially when I hear “atheists” joyfully declare God’s non-existence.

Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman (2/2)

The Seventh Seal (1/3) (Det sjunde inseglet) – Breaking Down Bergman – Episode #17

Published on Apr 24, 2012

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Ingmar Bergman’s most recognized (and likely most parodied) film is broken down into three parts for this discussion. In part one, hosts David Friend and Sonia Strimban look at the origins of the film, setting the scene for the debates that follow in the two subsequent videos, which are linked.

All related clips and images are copyrighted and property of their respective owners.

Friend and Strimban are watching the career of the Swedish director from his first film to his last, in order, and discussing their observations. Visit the main channel for more details.

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The Seventh Seal (2/3) (Det sjunde inseglet) – Breaking Down Bergman – Episode #17 Part 2

Published on Apr 30, 2012

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The Seventh Seal (3/3) (Det sjunde inseglet) – Breaking Down Bergman – Episode #17 Part 3

Published on May 8, 2012

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Woody Allen on Ingmar Bergman and the death.

Published on Sep 1, 2012

From Ingmar Bergmans Video.Broadcasted on SVT (Swedish Television) aug 2012.

Café Society Official International Trailer #1 (2016) – Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart Movie HD

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Review: ‘Café Society’ Isn’t Woody Allen’s Worst Movie

CAFÉ SOCIETY

  • Directed by Woody Allen
  • Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • PG-13
  • 1h 36m
Photo

Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg in Woody Allen’s “Café Society.” CreditSabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions

“Café Society,” Woody Allen’s new movie, comes wrapped in a double layer of nostalgia. Set in the 1930s, partly in Los Angeles, its script compulsively mentions Hollywood stars of the era. Joan Blondell! Robert Taylor! Barbara Stanwyck! Cagney and Crawford! Astaire and Rogers! Their names ring out like answers to trivia questions nobody had thought to ask.

At a recent New York critics’ screening, one fellow a few rows behind me chuckled at every name. I don’t think because the allusions were especially funny — the sentence “Adolphe Menjou is threatening to walk off the set” is not exactly a gut-buster, even in context — but because they signified a cultural awareness that the laugher in the dark wanted the rest of us to know he shared. And also perhaps because the dropped names stood in for jokes that the modern audience is too ignorant to get and that Mr. Allen has grown too lazy to make. He can gaze back fondly at the fast-receding golden age of Depression-era popular culture, and the rest of us can wistfully recall a time when he was able to spin those memories into better films than this one.

There’s no point in growing misty-eyed. “Café Society” is not “Radio Days”or “Bullets Over Broadway.” We can live with that. I’m happy to report that it’s not “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” or “Magic in the Moonlight,”either. Which is to say that it’s neither another example of bad, late Woody Allen nor much in the way of a return to form. It is, overall, an amusing little picture, with some inspired moments and some sour notes, a handful of interesting performances and the hint, now and then, of an idea.

 

Video

Trailer: ‘Café Society’

By AMAZON STUDIOS on Publish DateJuly 13, 2016. Photo by Amazon Studios. Watch in Times Video »

Like most of Mr. Allen’s recent work, this movie takes place within the hermetically enclosed universe of its maker’s long-established preoccupations. Rather than find fresh themes or problems, he likes to rearrange the old ones into a newish pattern, emphasizing some elements and letting others drift into the background. Here the dominant conceit is Mr. Allen’s well-documented ambivalence about California and the industry that has often seemed ambivalent about him. He loves movies, but Hollywood, with its shallowness and gossip, has always repelled him.

But with the help of his gifted collaborators, the production designer Santo Loquasto and the cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, he bathes “the film colony” in golden light and swathes its denizens in lovely period clothes. He sends an ambitious Bronx boy, Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg), out West to seek his fortune. At first cold-shouldered by his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a powerful agent, Bobby is eventually taken under Phil’s wing and plunged into a swirl of parties and power lunches. He’s suitably intoxicated by his new surroundings.

Photo

Corey Stoll in “Café Society.”CreditSabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions

“I’ve never mixed Champagne with bagels and lox,” he says.

“Welcome to Hollywood,” someone replies.

That’s not a bad line, and there are some other pretty good ones sprinkled throughout the sprawling script. Bobby’s bickering parents, played by Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott, supply a few Yiddish-inflected laughs, as well as the requisite touch of metaphysical fatalism. (“I accept death, but under protest,” Dad says. “Protest to who?” Mom responds. Also not a bad line.) The ensemble is larger and the story looser than in Mr. Allen’s last few movies, making room for Corey Stoll’s relaxed turn as Bobby’s charismatic gangster brother and Parker Posey and Paul Schneider’s intriguing double act as a cynical and apparently happily married pair of bicoastal sophisticates.

Photo

Blake Lively in “Café Society.”CreditSabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions

The axis on which everything turns is an old-fashioned love triangle that includes, of course, the passion of an older man for a younger woman. It turns out that Bobby and Phil are both in love with a transplanted Nebraskan called Vonnie (short for Veronica), who is Phil’s secretary.Kristen Stewart’s performance in the role, which blends gravity and lightness, glamour and its opposite, is certainly the best part of “Café Society,” but it also exposes just how thin and tired the rest of the movie is.

Mr. Allen’s literal voice, which supplies narration, sounds unusually sluggish and weary. The same is true of his voice as a writer and director. For every snappy scene or exchange there are three or four that feel baggy and half-written. We are treated to one survey of the clientele at the swanky Manhattan nightclub that is Bobby’s post-Hollywood professional perch and then, a while later, to another. We wander into jazz clubs and dining rooms and seem unsure of why we’ve come. Blake Lively, wandering into the movie’s second half as a second Veronica, seems to feel the same way. The movie seems much longer than its 96 minutes.

Photo

Steve Carell in “Café Society.”CreditSabrina Lantos/Gravier Productions

Every once in a while we hear or see something that makes us cringe a little: a harsh, unfunny encounter between Bobby and a prostitute shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles; an anecdote about Errol Flynn’s sexual interest in underage girls. It’s hard to say if Mr. Allen is testing the audience’s tolerance or trolling our sensitivities, or for that matter if he’s just blithely carrying on as he always has, oblivious to changing mores or the vicissitudes of his own reputation.

257COMMENTS

It doesn’t really matter because “Café Society” ultimately poses no interesting questions about its maker or its characters. The movie most closely resembles the kind of Hollywood product for which its deepest nostalgia is reserved. It’s a pop-culture throwaway, a charming bit of trivia, the punch line to a half-forgotten joke.

“Café Society” is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). Surprisingly bloody murders and surprisingly bloodless romance. Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes.

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