EEIE_ Shooting star

When the flak was flying, Woody Allen just kept on working, he tells Alan Morrison, and Ballets Over Broadway is the happy result.

After a handful of Academy Award wins and nominations for Bullets Over Broadway. Woody Allen’s peers would seem to have tentatively welcomed him back into their ranks. Now that the dust has begun to settle following his acrimonious split from Mia Farrow and a flurry of unfounded child abuse allegations. America’s number one neurotic can get back to what he does best making movies.

‘You know. it wasn‘t as bad or as interesting as you would think from the outside.‘ he says. looking back from the comfort of a top London hotel. ‘lf you got the press accounts of it. you thought the house was on fire. and there were ambulances. and it was Bosnia. But it was a lot duller than that. It was a couple of calls in the daytime from the lawyer. a couple of things I had to sign now and then. The proof is that 1 did my normal amount of work.‘

The first thing that strikes you about Woody Allen apart from the unmistakable fact that he is Woody Allen. right down to the nervous handshake and an anxious insistence to keep out ofthe line ofsunlight streaming through the window is how serious he is. The classic one-liners are clearly polished for the scripts; before me is a writer and director who tends to downplay his achievements and takes a rather workmanlike approach to his

', craft. The second most obvious fact is I that he is currently going through one ofthe tnost productive and critically 3 praised periods of his 2-1-l'ilm career. In the last few years alone. we‘ve had Husbands And litres. Manhattan ' Murder Mystery. :1 TV version of his 60s play Don 't Drink The ll'ater. a stage hit in Central Park West and now. the scintillating period comedy Bullets ()l‘t’l' Broadway. Bullets charts the trials of an idealistic young playwright. David Shayne (John Cusack). as he attempts to direct his latest work on the Broadway stage. I Artistic integrity sells its soul to financial necessity. however. and David is forced to cast amazingly untalented gangster"s ruoll ()live Neal (Jennifer Tilly) in a key role in order to get the

cash to allow the show to go on. What‘s 5 - worse is that ()live comes complete

with goon bodyguard Cheech (Chan. Palminteri). who‘s not above giving the aspiring playwright sotue unsolicited help with the dialogue and dramatic structure of his masterwork.

Bullets Over Broadway: ‘lines so funny they bring tears to the eyes’

I The film is a hilarious mix of situation and character-driven comedy. reinforced with lines so funny they bring tears to the eyes. Allen has

assembled a brilliant ensemble cast the Oscar-winning Dianne Wiest and Britain‘s Jitn Broadbent stand out who bathe in the amber glow of the

lovingly re—created period setting. If Man/rattan Murder t‘Wystery was a f un-

I filled. middle-class parlour game.

I Bit/leis ()l't’l' Broadway is 21 witty and

i literate piece of work for those who

i like a little thought injected into their

I come entertainment.

} Ballets also marks the first time Allen

f has teamed up with writer Douglas

McGrath. "l‘hat was a pleasure.‘ he


smiles. ‘Every number of years I get lonely just sitting in a room. so every

I now and then l like to collaborate with l somebody just for the sheer company

i of it. And I‘ve always picked friends i Mickey Rose. Marshall Brickman and Doug McGrath. I gave him a list of

1 about eight or ten ideas and said

i “Which ofthese interests you?" He

said. “The one about the gangster and the showgirl. it‘s a funny idea. why don‘t we work on that?" But if he had said something else. if he had said “I like the one about the politician who goes blind." or something. then I guess we would have done that one.

‘We sit down and bat ideas. and we talk about it for a couple of weeks. then I go off and write it. because I have to either act in it or direct it. or both sometimes. I like to write the script ruyself because I know what I want to say and I know what I want to direct. It really is specific. But a lot of the hard work is done in the planning of it. Once you‘re at the writing stage. I find it's much easier. The hard work is when you‘re planning where to go with it.‘

With a completed script in hand. it's then time to get the cast together. The list of those who have worked. even recently. with Allen. is remarkable Liam Neeson. Anjelica Huston. Madonna. Jodie Foster and. while he admits that many stars do call him up soliciting for roles. however minor. much of the graft is done by his casting director. Juliet Taylor. She's the one who introduced him to Chan. Palminteri long before A Bronx 'la/e came out and who suggested Helena Bonham Carter for the part of Allen‘s young wife in his next project. With so few good roles far less good comic roles around. it‘s easy to see why they flock to him. And yet he insists he‘s not the wise-cracking Woody we know from the big screen.

‘(ienerally I'm the gloomy. pessimistic type. and always have been. People come up to me at parties and say. “What‘s wrong‘.’". and I say. “Nothing. this is just the way I look." Let me put it this way: I wasn‘t happy when l was younger. I wasn't happy in my adult life. I wasn‘t happy last year and l‘tn not that happy now.‘

Bullets ()ver Broadway opens on I’rt'day / 2 May.

mer— All about Yves

French director Yves Angelo is a philosophical filmmaker and a compulsive thinker. The experience of promoting his film, Le Colonel Chabert, for its British release propels him into an enthusiastic digression on the ambiguity of language. He is not, however, rigorous-minded: ‘You create a movie with your feelings,’ he says. ‘It is like music: you can’t explain the music, but you feel something and, because of this feeling, you understand.’ Filmmaking, in other words, transcends explanation.

‘When you do a movie, you never think about the audience. It is your sensibility, your own feelings about the story, your point of view, your vision, which count. The audience have to feel these things.

Angelo assumes that his notion of humanity has universal reference. ‘When you talk about human nature, you talk about universal problems and it is always the same,’ he argues. This concept is apolitical, and enshrines one man’s ‘instinct’ as profoundly true. Angelo articulates this when he describes the creative process: ‘It is the mystery of the feeling about the

Le Colonel Chabert: ‘mature and subtle performances'

picture . . . you know, the sensation of the mystery which guides me.’

The best refutation of Angela’s theory of directing is that it has little bearing upon his film. Far from being . distinctively individual, Le Colonel i Chabert is an unoriginal film. It is ; technically and thematically l unremarkable, and recalls The Return ‘; 0f Martin Guerre in its subject and Un

Coeur En Hiver in its themes. Angelo made his name as a cinematographer, ; and is acclaimed for his work on Un

j Coeur En Hiver, Cyrano De Bergerac l and Cerminal, amongst others. Le

Colonel Chabert, his directorial debut, is chiefly notable for the long visual set-pieces which lovingly recreate a Prussian battleground: images of death shot in misty blue light. llis control of narrative is less impressive. Slow visuals detract from the forward trajectory, major characters are inexplicably abandoned in an abrupt leap of time-scale, and the final scene

I is so dislocated and ambiguous as to

I be almost an after-thought. The film is

saved by the mature and subtle

I“ performances of Gerard Depardieu,

l Fanny Ardant and Fabrice Luchini, who

i give their characters an intriguing

! psychological depth.

I The film takes its story from a novel

l by Honore de Balzac. An imposing but

raggedy figure (Depardieu) appears in

! post-Napoleonic Paris, claiming to be

1 a ‘dead’ war hero called Colonel

Chabert. Chabert’s wife (Ardant) is 3 long since remarried and refuses to { acknowledge the returned husband. ; Penniless and rejected, Chabert wins the support of a wily lawyer (Luchini) and sues his wife for the wealth she has appropriated following his i supposed death. ' At the core of Le Colonel Chabert is l its complex view of human nature. ‘I wanted to show the masks that people must take to exist socially,’ Angelo . explains. ‘People never confront one

another face to face, because life is about games of the mask.’ As Chabert and his wife fight it out, their disguises shift and slip, but never crack. ‘The ambiguity of the characters is the project and the theme of the movie,’ he adds. ‘It is something I am fascinated with, and I

didn’t want to make anything obvious.’ .

The film is fine in this respect, generous rather than cynical, and it maintains an intelligent restraint which suits the repressed mood of the characters.

The major disappointment is that Le Colonel Chabert remains a cold film. Bepressed emotion is most effective when it is frighteningly potent, like a

time-bomb waiting to blow. In Angela’s

film, there is simply no bomb. Rather, the rare moments of raw emotion are treated with such detachment that they defuse our sympathy for the characters. What the film really misses is the fierce passion of the restaurant scene in Un Coeur En River, in which the tightly maintained ‘masks’ finally come away to produce an almost unbearable release. (Hannah Fries)

Le Colonel Chabert opens at the Edinburgh Cameo on Friday 5 May and the Glasgow Film Theatre on Friday 26 May.

I l l l

32 The List 5-l8 May I995