Café Society :: A Smorgasbord of Classic Allen Tropes…

Cineville - Café Society

It took me a while to properly warm to Café Society as I just kept thinking I’d seen it all before, as indeed for the most part I had. There’s really nothing new about this latest Woody Allen film. It is a ridiculous smorgasbord of classic Allen tropes. There’s the voiceover, the squabbling old couple, the awkward scene with a hooker, the philosophising over crime and love, the infidelities, the age-gap romance, the kvetching in Yiddish, the neurotic New Yorker out of place in LA. It’s almost like a Woody Allen rag quilt. And yet at the same time, it is its own little world, separate and perfectly formed, and as it develops, you can’t help but become immersed in it.

For me, one of the best things about Café Society, and about most Woody Allen films, is the quality of the dialogue. All of his characters have such fine vocabularies, and they speak so well that I could listen to them all day.

Cineville - Café Society

In the end, there was so much about the film that was perfect that I gradually just kind of fell in love with it. Both the leads are amazingly good and utterly convincing. Jesse Eisenberg and particularly Kirsten Stewart just shine and shimmer and feel like proper old school Hollywood stars. Anna Camp as a prostitute on her first job is also totally delightful.

Apparently Café Society is the first time Woody Allen has shot on digital. I just found that out. I don’t know enough about the technical side of filmmaking for that to have been obvious, but I did notice that the film looked especially beautiful and sumptuous. Would digital do that? I wouldn't have thought so. Maybe it had more to do with Vittorio Storaro, with whom he also worked for the first time. And that may be one of the reasons the leads looked so supernaturally attractive.

Cineville - Café Society

Café Society
 is not Woody Allen's funniest film, by a long way, but it has its moments and by the end, I was moved rather than amused, moved by the deep-sighing poignancy of it all.


Cineville - Café Society


The Viewing

This was another trip to the Eye over the water. I arrived half an hour early, affording myself the opportunity to learn some Dutch verbs and watch the lovely people come and go. There are always lots of lovely people at the Eye, and every time I’ve been so far, there seems to be something going on. Not just the films and the art and the fine dining, but there always seems to be a reception of some kind, with dutifully beautiful people drinking fizzy wine from flutes. And they look so damnably elegant and like everyone over here, to my rose-tinted eyes, they seem so unpretentious, even in their finery.

I was in Zaal 2 today, along with three couples. I sat the furthest forward as I invariably do. Dutch cinema-goers tend to keep their distance from the screen, living up to their national stereotype. There's so much space in these cinemas though. They all seem to have properly luxurious amounts of legroom.

The first trailer to come on was for I, Daniel Blake and I don’t mind telling you, it made me cry. Only once before has a mere trailer for a film made me cry and that was about two weeks ago, and it was exactly the same trailer. I can’t wait to see this film. I think it’s going to kill me.

As I left the cinema, I found myself thinking about how I’d never really understood Woody Allen’s love for New York City, as exemplified by this sort of thing…

No, but that’s not right. Of course I understood it. I’m not an imbecile. I understood it fine, but I'd never felt it. I’d never known love for a place before. Not like that. Not that same idolising, romanticising out of all proportion, feeling properly in love with a place.

But I do now. And that’s what I thought about as I rode home, home to my flat in the West of Amsterdam, hoping I’d remember to buy some gloves before my next cinema visit.

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you’ll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven’t already.

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