Woodython Five (3) – Crimewave

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On Friday it was the monthly Dirk club, when Dom-Dirk and I pour us a single goblet of wine each and sit passing judgement on the great and the good. We continued the Woodython, our bid to see all of Woody Allen’s films in 2013, by watching something of a rarity. SCOOP was never distributed in the cinema and is not readily available on DVD. The region 2 copy we watched was in Italian (with a few twists and pokes we got it in English).

Given the shocking run of films that we have seen from noughties-era Woody we were expecting the worse, but we were both pleasantly surprised; it was funny, very funny.

The film brought together Woody and Johansson after the belly flop of MATCHPOINT as a credible, comedy double act. She is a plain-Jane-super-brain wannabe journalist and he is a weak vaudevillian magician, together they investigate the Tarot Card murders following a tip-off from Ian McShane speaking beyond the grave. It’s whimsical, but very entertaining.

From his directorial debut TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (1969) to the less successful CASANDRA’S DREAM (2005) Woody has been preoccupied with crime and has explored the tragic potential of the notion of ‘the perfect crime’ and the comedy of errors in inept crooks and detectives.

This is a list inspired by mystery and crime.

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOURS (1989) One of Woody’s most accomplished films. Martin Landau is a well-respected eye-doctor who makes a pact with a hoodlum to bump off a troublesome mistress. The idea of vision, perception and the ‘eyes of God’ are a repeated motif as he struggles with the guilt of his actions.

Woody plays a down-on-his-luck documentary film-maker who is fascinated by an existential philosopher who eventually commits suicide.

It’s a remarkable film with great humanistic message: life is terrible and the best we can hope for is to make it better for future generations. Brilliant.

MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993) Back in 1974, Woody planned to produce a murder mystery film written in collaboration with Marshall Brickman, which eventually evolved into ANNIE HALL (1977). In order to get some light relief from his personal troubles, he returned to the script and developed it into this entertaining film.

It was inspired by Woody’s neighbour looking very relaxed following the death of his wife.

It is enhanced by light, engaging performances from Diane Keaton and Alan Alder and I still laugh at the sight of Woody playing cards. It also has moments of genuine suspense – how could she risk leaving her glasses in the apartment of Tony Soprano’s consiliari?

SMALL TIME CROOKS (2000) this is one of those ‘Woody’s back on form’ films at the beginning of the nougties. There was the possibility of a three picture, multiplex distribution deal which did a nose-dive when the film found disappointing audiences.

It’s a pity because this is an entertaining comedy starring Woody in a version of his TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN character: a useless, scheming crook who craves for the perfect heist. He persuades his wife Frankie that he can tunnel his way into a bank using a neighbouring cookie business as a front. Tracy Ulman plays a credible Eliza Doolittle archetype against Hugh Grant’s raffish cad who is keen on exploiting her innocent craving to be accepted in polite society.

CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION (2000) Dom-Dirk says Woody’s appearance enhances every film that he produces – this is possibly the only exception as he seems miscast and off-beam as C.W.Briggs, insurance investigator and criminal mastermind. He is hypnotised with a co-worker and they are persuaded to steal jewels by a stage magician.

Set in the 1940s it is an homage to Billy Wilder, yet seems unfinished and unsatisfying. It was his most expensive film (thanks to the period setting) yet it was the first not to be distributed in the UK. I’d like to be hypnotised to forget that I have seen it!

SCOOP (2006) Woody plays the stage magician this time, sending Scarlett Johansson to Ian McShane (more Deadwood than Lovejoy) who gives her a tip off of a murder committed by a member of the British Establishment.

She falls for the accused Peter Lyman as she investigates the case with Woody posing as her dad. It is an unexpected treat and the final pay off is hilarious!

I love you, really. With all due respect, you’re a beautiful person. You’re a credit to your race.

7 responses to “Woodython Five (3) – Crimewave

  1. For me, Scoop was his most enjoyable film since Manhattan Murder Mystery, after the other half of my Woody double bill, Melinda And Melinda, which was pretty awful!

    • It was very entertaining. I was willing to give some of its shaky moments the benefit of the doubt because it was coming from a good place.

      Your assessment of Melinda/Melinda is spot on – a low rent SLIDING DOORS. Woody is good, but he’s no Joey from BREAD.

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