What can we say of Woody Allen who does London?
What I can say about him and his latest film here is to imagine him in his reclusive semi-retirement in a countryside of London, enjoying his fine wine while recalling the good old memories of his glory, and when he does that, he really picks up the good ones to be assembled in a collective work of art. A piece that is worth of an appreciation on its own.
For an afficionado of his works from the days of Take The Money and Run to the recent years of Small Time Crooks, we hardly hold any surprise to what Match Point offers.
But for those less familiar with his past days, seeing the film is still a pleasure very likely to bring them to understand Allen’s stature position in cinematic world, and that position reflects his wit and philosophical mind-games that most of the time would surely jolt us, shaking our heads in disbelief over seeing an otherwise illicit soap-opera drama into a highly praised thriller which goes deeper as a study of human behavior in general.
The object of the study lies on the presence of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as a tennis pro has-been who chameleons himself as a desperate social climber, only to hit the jackpot when he strikes a winning game by marrying Emily Mortimer of a reputable family. Thus, begins the question of morale Allen starts asking us: for a climber to reach the top of his destination, is there any limit to the ladder he climbs?
Apparently, the answer points to an indefinite limit of the ladder, as now the climb is heading towards the sultry Scarlett Johansson, a deadly viper, femme fatale, who, in the tradition of Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity or Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, is able to mastermind and take over the control from the hapless guy now being a victim himself.
Or is he?
Allen has done this earlier in his Crimes and Misdemeanors, to a much more mind-blowing result, yet that does not mean leaving Match… in a pale comparison, for this London film has its own sleek look, suspiciously resulted from Allen’s shift in his musical score from the usual old-school jazz to classical opera, something to enhance the elegance of the upper-class society portrayed here.
But above all, what distinguishes the film from Allen’s recent works is his ability to leave out his ego completely on the screen, leaving the film with a fresh feeling, as if, hyperbolically, Allen is reborn in the film world. Hardly any single character in this film that we could say, “That’s so Woody!”, unlike, say, Anything Else in which Jason Biggs does Allen at his younger days (to a horrifying effect, Allen himself appears in that film!), and even Crimes… featured Allen in one of the main roles.
Perhaps London air does him good, leaving the spotlight to the beaming greatness of the cast, in particular Johansson who dons her sexy persona to the role she carries and continues haunting the film even when her character rarely presents in the film. Allen himself orchestrates them from behind, giving them deft direction from the clearly-twisted script he pens.
Thus, if London does muse him this well, we look forward to having more of it.