Cassandra’s Dream (2007)

Dear oh dear oh dear. What has happened to Woody Allen?

He’s turned into Bernard Matthews, that’s what. Except Mr Matthews takes rather unpalatable ingredients and fashions them into a product consumers are willing to swallow. In Mr Allen’s case, he has taken some rather good actors and mechanically reprocessed all the talent out of them.

Not since Dick Van Dyke swept London’s chimneys has a cinema audience been subjected to cockney accents so gratingly unconvincing as Ewan McGregor’s and Colin Farrell’s. They run like a thread through the whole movie which, apart from its value to film students as an exercise in how not to make films, has no redeeming features.

What kind of world does Woody Allen live in? He must be so detached from reality by fame, reputation, money and sycophancy that he thinks this is a picture worthy of general release. It is naïve beyond belief, from the cartoon like simplicity of the story written as if by an enthusiastic seven year old, to the amateur directing style where each scene appears to have been shot in one long take, and then strung together in the hope that it makes a convincing whole.

It does not. It’s simply a sequence of clichés peppered with awkward hand gestures, fluffed dialogue, continuity errors – and 70’s decor. Tom Wilkinson deserves a special mention for his stuttering, self-conscious delivery and Jewish shrugging. Where did he pick that up from, I wonder?

Cliché is piled upon cliché including incessant nervous smoking, nervous drinking, nervous pill-popping, beautiful actress in need of roadside assistance, Brits tucking into hearty shepherds pie, Claridges, big wins at poker, disastrous losses at poker, Tower Bridge, dog racing, and more smoking. The soundtrack underlines the ‘scary’ scenes with ‘scary’ music. It’s all painting by numbers stuff.

But perhaps I am doing Woody Allen a disservice. Maybe the joke is on us. Just like comedian Les Dawson’s discordant piano playing, maybe Allen has deliberately made a brilliantly funny movie.

There’s one scene which did actually make me wonder if this was the case. In this scene the director departs from the usual single-take static long shot. McGregor, Farrell and Wilkinson are sheltering from the rain under a weeping willow or some such low-hanging tree. During their animated discussion the camera tracks around the group (who remain bone dry, incidentally) but there is so much obtrusive foliage between them and us that I actually laughed out loud. The last few minutes of this scene have McGregor completely out of the shot and I wondered if in fact they were made in his absence.

If I had known right from the start that this film was a comedy, I could have uncurled my toes, closed my mouth, stopped peeping through my fingers and enjoyed a hilarious thriller pastiche.

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