2 February 2018.
WONDER WHEEL ***1/2
We had to wait more than a year this time for Woody Allen’s annual gift to us cinephiles and Woody fans, but the wait was worth it. It has the usual Allen-esque features: world-weary wisdom, excellent direction of actors Kate Winslet, James Belushi and Justin Timberlake, plus his mixture of tender and tense moments. Woody’s words are there as always, along with the mood created by the lovely lighting and naturalistic cinematography created by maestro Vittorio Storaro, and the striking period decor and music. All in 1950s Coney Island – can’t get more New York than that.
Woody’s script is perfectly tuned and twisted between the various characters, each with their own needs and hangups. Winslet’s character is a frustrated housewife who works as a waitress and longs for romance and her past career in acting; her husband, played by a touching Belushi, tries to balance the nervous tension between his highly-strung wife and his newly-returned daughter. And the lovely daughter is back because she is hiding from her Mafia husband’s thugs who are out to kill her. Then there is Timberlake’s character – the narrator, an attractive, aspiring writer and womanizer, torn between the older and younger woman, the eternal Allen alter ego. Coney Island is the perfect honky tonk backdrop for all this Sturm und Drang…
One could say it’s Allen’s tip-of-the-hat to the grand American playwright Eugene O’Neill, for it’s a sort of ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Night’, or a study of the futility of life…
The whole thing may seem obvious and predictable, but then so often is life…and that’s what Woody excels at…the twists of fate and the follies we mere humans create for ourselves…often caught in our own pitfalls. It’s always good to have Woody back, our own personal philosopher.
Hopefully the hysterical MeToo militants don’t throw away such a gifted baby with the bathwater…
There have been many films about men trying to conquer mountains, but none quite as majestic as this one by the Australian documentarist Jennifer Peedom. Its incredible, mesmerizing cinematography, the glorious soundtrack by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the poetic narration by William Defoe had me scribbling in the dark to capture his beautiful words, while not wanting to take my eyes off the amazing vistas. For this is a film to see in the dark, in cinemas, and especially on the big screen to feel its full impact.
The narration written by Robert Macfarlane attempts to explain and understand the hunger and drive that pull people towards those towering peaks, despite the dangers: “The siren song of the summit”, “Risk has become its own reward”, “They reveal one’s insignificance…”, “This is the symphony of the earth, with waves of stone…” or “Where time warps and bends the senses and they are amplified…”
And finally, “Those who dance are considered crazy by those who cannot hear the music…” to explain these daredevils to the earthbound. This is a grandiose film that will make you soar for an hour or so.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.