This is, unbelievably, Woody Allen’s 47th film, made at the age of eighty. And he shows no signs of stopping soon.
Set in the 1930s, Woody Allen’s bittersweet romance Cafe Society follows Bronx-born Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) to Hollywood, where he falls in love with Vonnie (Kristen Stewart, on her usual great naturalistic form), and back to New York, where he is swept up in the vibrant world of high society nightclub life. Centring on events in the lives of Bobby’s colorful Bronx family, the film is a glittering valentine to the movie stars, socialites, playboys, debutantes, politicians, and gangsters who epitomized the excitement and glamour of the age. Hollywood and New York are sketched with crisp, immaculately tailored art deco lines and Allen increasingly seems more at ease with a story that pays tribute to a past era of cinema than one that is wholly contemporary.
There is always someone playing Woody Allen in his films and, in this one, it is Jesse Eisenberg with the immediately recognisable slightly whiny New York Jewish intonation. Because of his disconcertingly accurate channelling of the director’s jittery introspection, this handsome, nostalgia-sodden romance feels rather familiar. But just when you are about to dismiss the picture as pure cappuccino froth, the bittersweet bite kicks in.
It’s the first film Allen has shot on digital cameras and it also happens to be the most visually interesting and technically impressive film that he’s made in decades. Surely there will be Cinematography and Costume Design Oscar nominations come February. Vittorio Storaro (The Conformist), who already has an Oscar for Apocalypse Now, here takes full advantage of the way in which the period has been recreated, from Santo Loquasto’s production design to Suzy Benzinger’s costumes, to plunge us into an irresistible vision of the past. Allen and his long time editor Alisa Lepselter indulge in a few old-timey film transitions too, for added flavour.
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Venue: William Loveless Hall