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Rifkin\'s Festival
Year : 2020
Country : Spain

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DokBrowne  [ 6.0 ]    [ add to preferred ]    [ email this review to a friend ]

Wallace Shawn's 6th time acting in a Woody Allen movie (dating back to Shawn's on-screen debut with "Manhattan") finally earns him the lead, though that privilege derives more from a scarcity of A-list options lately due to Allen's scorched-earth reputation in this #metoo era. The movie has about 80% fewer big name stars than all of his work used to because he's toxic now (don't be fooled by seeing Christoph Waltz and Steve Guttenberg in the credits: they each do about 3 minutes of screen time); that's also why this took forever to find distribution, finally getting a tiny theatrical run and overdue market release in January 2022, 2 years after it was copyrighted. He said on Leonard Maltin's podcast recently that he had another movie lined-up to make in France a while ago until Covid derailed everything, so if his health holds up in his late 80's, "Rifkin" might not even be his last hurrah.

But it might as well be, as, to no one's surprise, it's the same movie he's been doing off and on for ages - the neurotic pseudo-intellectual weasel obsessed with marital affairs (in this case his wife's with a handsome young hot shot director at the San Sebastian Film Festival where this all takes place, which then justifies his own), lamenting the dumbing-down of culture around him like a doddering old man, name dropping the same literary references and European film influences he's been using since the '70s to boast his own sophistication (yep, Proust, Dostoyevsky, Sisyphus, Godard, Bertolucci, Bergman, et al), questioning his Judaism, pretending to search for the meaning of life even though Woody Allen never seems capable of thinking beyond the same 3-4 myopic topics anyway.

Despite how calm and unfussy Allen seems to be as a person, it must be exhausting to be him. Jealousy infects all of his work, that inability to trust a significant other. And whenever he does something closer to a romantic comedy, he rarely caves to a happy ending when something more sanguine can be suggested instead. Again, through his steady work ethic, the relaxed tones of his films, and what we know of his low-key lifestyle, it's weird to think that he probably isn't at peace inside himself, with these tumultuous psychological hang-ups controlling every script he ever writes. But let's not pull at that thread too much.

Point is, the repetition is tiresome, and his approach to Judaism/infidelity/art/existentialism is even more tiresome, like his characters these days are just saying these things out loud per contractual obligation. The one distinguishing gimmick of this latest fill-in-the-blank exercise is a series of meta dream sequences Wallace Shawn has in which he imagines himself in black-and-white stylistic parodies of classic films ("Citizen Kane") and filmmakers (there's a Fellini one, a Truffaut, a Bergman, and a Bunuel), but Allen interfaces with these inspirations on only the most superficial level.

It's easier to like "Rifkin's Festival", just like "A Rainy Day in New York" before it and several other of his most mediocre films, if you don't hold it up to the old standards of quality Woody Allen and just try to savor the moments of reverie here and there. Shawn and his love interest Elena Anaya waxing poetic about love at an outdoor bistro at dusk, for example. Akin to Allen's late-career run of films shot in Europe, this is like "The Trip" but instead of Brydon & Coogan, it's for an extremely specific old Jewish comedian musing little bon mots to himself about life. Indoors and pertaining to any storyline, it's all rather dull and prosaic, but as a soothing carefree travelogue, it works. Still a couple cute one liners in there, too. And one amusing/thoughtful insight that I don't recall having heard before in his filmography: "your life isn't empty, it's meaningless! There's a difference!" That's a keeper.

Corto   4.0  ]

Weighted Rating : 6.2
No. Ratings : 2
No. Reviews : 1

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