Saturday, 10 March 2012

You will meet a tall dark stranger- Woody Allen

I have probably seen about half the Wood Allen films in which he has Directed, Scripted written or appeared as an actor and sometimes undertaking all three Roles over the past 50 years. I have enjoyed several of his films although rarely appreciated the humour and in general have not been engaged by his movies for them to remain memorable and if pressed I would find it difficult to recall the story lines, including which have brought him Oscars with Annie Hall in 1978, Manhattan I980, Hannah and her sisters. The last offering to be enjoyed was Vickie Christina Barcelona and I have Midnight in Paris on my future view list. I cannot remember having come cross his other recent film You will meet a tall dark Stranger 2010 which has a number of English actors, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones in major roles also Anne Friel Pauline Collins, Celia Imrie and Philip Glennister plus Antonio Banderas in an English Language Spanish American co production.

The film was enjoyable rather than outstanding. Alfie played by Anthony Hopkins and a wealthy business man who as most old men do wake up in the middle of the night recognising the rapid approach of their mortality. His response is to go to the gym and hanker to be young again and to have a son replacing the one they lost. They have a daughter Sally (Naomi Watts) who is married to a one book published writer, (James Brolin) who trained to become a doctor but decided this was not something he wanted to do.

The films centre on these four lives. Alfie separates and then divorces, buying a sports car and encountering a common speaking young woman who appears to have operated a hostess/model in Los Vegas at one point in her young life. He buys them a modern Thames view apartment and buys her jewellery and furs and with viagra attempts to create the son. He finds keeping up with her high maintenance spending a problem and her lack of interests in those cultural things which interest him. He goes to a dance club with her and feels out of place and is jealous when she dances with great sexuality with a stranger,

The threat comes from one of the regulars at the gym where he takes he shows her off. Later he spots coming out of a hotel when travelling by Taxi and then when he goes to make inquiries at the hotel he sees one of the other men from the gym also leave and say that he lives nearby. When he challenges the wife she claims she was at the Gym and that the man he saw at the hotel would vouch for her. She is pregnant and he demands a DNA test when the child is born. Their relationship is never the same after that and he arranges to meet his ex wife and with a view to reconciliation. He admits to being afraid of being alone in his old age.

His wife had attempted to commit suicide with the departure of Alfie and had been found by her daughter. She then goes to a psychic played by Pauline Collins and who is skilled at giving desperate clients the kind of information which keeps them going. In this instance she combines the information that the ex wife will meet a tall dark stranger with the suggestion that we lead many lives and that in the past the ex wife was someone like Joan of Arc!

Her daughter had given up a promising career in the contemporary art world to find ways to support her one published novel success by her husband who now depends on financial support from his mother in law for them to survive in an apartment. The wife gains employment as a personal assistant to art gallery owner Antonio Banderas who discloses that he has problems with his bipolar wife. He takes here to a Bond Street Jewellers to help buy a pair of expensive earrings which cost several thousands pounds. As relations with her husband deteriorate and the prospect of starting a family recede begins to fall in love with her employer and this nearly ignites into something when he takes her to opera after his wife cannot attend and her husband is away. He drives her home but does not take up her invitation to come with her to the flat because he appears worse for alcohol.

She takes him to view the work of her art school day’s friend played by Anna Friel and he is impressed and proposes an exhibition. She becomes more drawn to her employer and then is shock to find Anne wearing the earrings she helped purchased and the girl admits she is having an affair with him. This causes the wife great disappointment and brings the flaky marriage to breaking point.

Meanwhile her husband has taken an interest in a guitar playing neighbour across the court yard. He is disappointed when he sees her being undressed by a young man but this does not prevent him inviting the young woman to lunch on a day pouring with rain. After that they have several meetings. The girl is engaged to a Brussels based diplomat but with the wedding only days away she calls it off much to the horror of both families with guests coming from various parts of the world at great expense.

She has introduced the writer to her father who is a translator and critic. During the first part of the film he awaits the response of his publishers to his latest offering and becomes tenser because of several delays. His mood is not helped by two developments. One of his Poker playing friends has written his first novel which he gives to him to read and he realises it is far better than anything he has written and is honest enough to admit this. The other is that his mother in law says she has consulted her psychic who says he should not be disappointed and that while he may have success as a writer perhaps in another life he should consider changing occupations.

Then he learns that his friend has been killed and that another of the Poker playing friends is in a coma. He breaks into the home of his friend and steals the lap top and his notes and then submits the novel to his publishers after getting his girl friend’s father to read and give his opinion. After me moves in with the girlfriend his publishers says the new work is his best yet and they plan to give it prominence. Then learns that it was the other man who died and it is the author of the work in a coma and could well recover with time and support. He visits and his friends believe the man is flickering in eyelids in recognition. They suggest that their successful writer friend reads his latest work to the bed bound man. While the film ends, as often those of Woody Allen do, without conclusions the suggestion is that he knows he will be found out as a fraud and the new successful life he was about to touch will be taken from him.
There are two development in the life of the daughter. The first is that another friend suggests that they open an art gallery together and her mother confirms the often promised willingness to put up half the capital required as has been promised in the past. When she tells her mother even more funds are likely to be needed her mother announces that she will provide no funds on the advice of the psychic and no amount of pleading will change the mother’s mind.

Previously her mother had suggested that she ought to tell her employer of her feelings for him and this she does when they are parting as she leaves to establish the new business with her friend. He gives no indication of ever having had similar feelings for her, emphasising that she was the best PA he has ever had and wishing her well as a rival gallery owner. When she presses him that if she had disclosed her feelings before he met Anna Friel it is evident from his response that he had never been drawn to her in the same way,

It is only the rejected wife who appears to have a happy ending of a kind. When visiting friends she meets a recent widower who runs a books shop specialising in spiritualism and the occult. He is far from being a talk dark stranger short and plump but the common interests drawn them together, He has attempted to gain contact with his wife through a medium and before he feels able to begin a marital relationship they two attend a session at which the wife appears but he is unable to seek approval for the new relationship. Helena, Gemma Jones leaves in distress realising that he is still married to the dead woman. She goes into despair again although is encouraged by her psychic to believe that she will experience happiness perhaps in a later life. However she is contacted by Jonathan the bookshop owner who has found the courage to ask the question and received a positive answer. The two appear well suited for each other.

Woody Allen who is now in his 77th years is married to his technically 5th wife although he lived with Mia Farrow and his present wife is her adopted daughter with Andre Previn. He married his first wife when he was 19 and she 16. His relationship with his fourth wife is said to have commenced when she was 17 and at High School. The relationship between Mia Farrow and Allen ended when she discovered nude photos of her adopted daughter. Then aged 20. Mia also accused him of sexual interference with their adopted daughter when she was seven years of age. The charges arose during a legal custody battle where the Judge said the evidence against Allen was inconclusive.

One evening earlier in the week as I was about to go to bed and flipped the sky channels to see what was on I came across a channel called Current which announced it was closing down and was showing some of its important documentaries before doing so, There were three being shown show which I stayed up to watch. All three concerned the vulnerability of children in poor countries to exploitation by adults and by other children. One featured children in the capital of India where there number of street children on their own is disturbingly high in the tens of thousands. The programme followed the life of one boy who had run away from home and became involved with a gang where later it emerged the older leader in his early teens was sexually abusing the young members. He was a found a place at a residential school. The programme also followed the life of a young girl who lived in a slum home with her grandmother after her father died and her mother walked out. She sold flowers to help the family income and had stopped going to school because of this need.

The second programme feature a child brother in Cambodia where a charitable organisation is now attempting to combat male paedophiles with the help of a team of police who use motorbikes in plain clothes to keep surveillance and attempt to gain the evidence for prosecutions. The programme followed one man who appeared to grooming a girl on the streets and also a man who claimed to have adopted two children.

The programme goes to the Kenyan Coast where local women are used to offer tourists children from villages arranged by male pimps where for a few dollars to the family children are purchased without the parents or the children appreciating the significance of what they are doing. There was also a situation where teenage girls appeared to open to being used for money as a way of improving their position. It was all depressing and alarming. A check when writing this and it appears the channel has ended without finding out what other subjects had been covered and why the channel had now been closed. I have checked on the Internet and the station closes in the UK on Sunday. Missed are a series of 50 documentaries to see before you die and a host of other programmes on various subjects which I would have liked to have experienced. It is not clear why the channel has ended in the UK, presumably from lack of financial sponsorship.

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