Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Cafe Society: Monday, August 1 2016

Cafe Society, written and directed by Woody Allen, is a delightful film if you are a fan of Woody Allen's work. I consider him a highly intelligent film genius, with great insight into human nature, so I enjoyed this, his latest production. Billed as a romantic, comedy-drama, it is written and directed brilliantly. The ambience throughout is evocative of the 1930s, and everything seems of a piece from the costumes to the sets. The film is infused with a sepia tone, like old photographs from that era, and the cinematography is outstandingly beautiful. In my opinion, the film is a true work of art. Beautifully crafted, and created by the hand of a master filmmaker.

Gangsters are usually equated with Italians or the Irish, but in this film we are introduced to, what was new for me, Jewish gangsters. They aren't really any different from the others. The Italians and the Irish have always been depicted as closely affiliated with the Church of Rome, but the Jewish gangsters seem to be secular. There is no Synagogue of Jerusalem. They use the same method of disposing of people who are problems: a concrete coffin. It has occurred to me in the past, to wonder how many of the fantastic buildings we see in the large, American cities have offerings of human sacrifices in their foundations. Shades of the pagans of old!

One amusing highlight of the plot is when Bobby is scattering the ashes of his brother, Ben the gangster. It is mentioned that Ben had converted to Christianity because he wanted to be forgiven and go to Heaven in the afterlife. Judaism is much more pragmatic than Christianity, and doesn't offer an afterlife. Woody doesn't spell it out as I have done, but as a student of comparative religions, I appreciated Woody's joke.

The acting is superb. Jesse Eisenberg's Bobby Dorfman is  totally different from his Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder. He is appealing in this part, and I actually felt for him. Kirsten Stewart as Vonnie is equally attractive, and I felt for her too. Steve Carell as Phil, Bobby's uncle, is unrecognizable, and plays the part believably. As a fan of Steve Carell, I enjoyed his performance. Jeanie Berlin delivers a delightful cameo as Bobby's mother.

Cafe Society ends with Bobby and Vonnie, separated from each other, bringing in the New Year with their respective spouses. As the year dies and is reborn, we see them both gazing sadly into space. What are they thinking, is the question we are left with. It seemed to me they were wondering if life would have been very different if they had made different choices. Does this reflect what Woody Allen, at 80 years of age, may himself feel about life?

I like Woody Allen's wittiness, and use of the English language. I also like his deep understanding of New York Jews, and his ability to laugh at, and with, his people with deep affection. This is such a Scottish trait too, so I relate.

I enjoyed the film, and laughed out loud, which is unusual. It really was funny in parts.

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