At 85 Woody Allen continues to be a master storyteller weaving in and out of privileged lives as they sow what they reap in their hotel suites and private villas. Woody Allen has never been bothered with what goes on outside the world of the wealthy waifs. Why should he? When you can drink champagne for breakfast lunch and dinner why bother with rum? Rifkin’s Festival is his 49th film. Prolific and passionate, Woody Allen remains a phenomenal talent. This film sparkles with a wispy wit, a cosy warmth and an afterglow that is peculiarly Woody Allenish.
His characters continue to cheat on their partners, with or without the privilege of feeling guilty. I don’t think the wife Sue (Gina Gershon) feels particularly guilty about cheating on her ageing husband Mort Rifkin (played by Wallace Shawn who Woody aficionados may recognize as the underrated actor from Woody’s first film Manhattan).
Sue who is a publicist for a hotshot director Philippe (Louis Garrell) openly ignores her husband whenever the three meet. No wonder Mort is mortified. He heads or the nearest doctor to check on his heart and falls for her in the way that an 80-year old man is not supposed to. But then if Woody Allen can be so creatively fertile at 85 why can’t his protagonist remain sexually active at 80? Not that there is any sex between Mort and the comely Spanish doctor Elena (Jo Rojas). Elena, we understand through her hushed but hysterical telephonic chats with her husband which Mort conveniently overhears is not in a happy marriage. Neither is he. Do you get the drift?
The narrative is accentuated with stunning scenic overviews of San Sebastian where a film festival is a venue for the above quadrangle. Woody’s regular cinematographer Vittorio Storraro captures the spirit of San Sebastian without over-romanticizing the Spanish town or making it look like a touristic plug. Mort’s growing fondness for his dishy doctor and his disappointment when his medical reports show nothing amiss remain at the core of this endearing tale of autumnal passion told without excessive sentimentality.
Since the mellow romance unravels at a film festival there are some tongue-in-cheek spoofs on world classics. The distance and the close relationship between art and life have always fascinated Woody Allen. Here is his latest lustrous look at love longing and ageing, he seduces us into a world of ecstasy as experienced by a hopeless romantic who won’t be sucked into cynicism.
Written & Directed by Woody Allen, Rifkin’s Festival gets 3 and a half stars!
Image source: youtube/WoodyAllen