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Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 13, 2021 5:15 pm
by Dan Warburton
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Robert Fuest, And Soon The Darkness, 1970

If you can negotiate your way past the Captcha security, this is a fine review https://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/revie ... r-blu-ray/ - and I should stress this is the original of the film, which (from what I read) seems to be much better than the 2010 remake. Michele Dotrice was just 22 at the time, three years before she hit comedy paydirt opposite Michael Crawford in Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em (if you can remember that one, you're probably as ancient as I am), but she isn't laughing here, I can tell you. As the above-linked review makes clear, wide open spaces under clear blue skies can be as scary as a dark haunted house..

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2021 9:12 am
by Lao Tsu Ben
Always lurking Dan, and ready to post from time to time. Happy new year, at least we've been warned this time around.

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Lucky Jo, Michel Deville, 1964

Deville's direction is as elegant as they come and well-complimented by Nina Companeez's sharp, witty lines - though just a tad too ironical, just like the film as a whole. The opening looks like Pierre Etaix filming some Westlake's bits of Dortmunder (same remark has been made in this review) and the mix of melancholy and burlesque, to the sound of a fitting soundtrack by Delerue, seems to strike a perfect balance. The problem is that Deville is almost never serious enough, his is the standpoint of an aesthete, detached, ironical, playful, all things I like and favor, but also regrettably shallow. In that sense, the wistfulness of the first few scenes tend to disappear into thin air once things get going, that is, fights and bodies accumulate, and the tragic overtones are too elusive to scrape at the comic-book aloofness de rigueur that's perhaps associated with Eddie Constantine. One "merci Jo" at the end has that tragic, though discreet quality, that characterizes a good série noire but has been a bit lacking. Very impressive camerawork through and through.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Fri Jan 15, 2021 7:55 am
by Dan Warburton
Dammit Ben, I snatch hundreds of movies a year and you always seem to find one that I haven't got yet (and I thought I had most of the Devilles) - just as well Karagarga is down today, as I'd jump on it right now - bookmarked! Thanks for the info - meanwhile, I wouldn't recommend this one, unless you're a real glutton for punishment

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Paul Bartel, Death Race 2000, 1975

Sly Stallone as Machine Gun Joe VeTurbo and the thoroughly stoopid lines he delivers in that inimitable accent ("you know, it used to be in the old days we would just take someone like you in a alley and blow their brains out") is (are?) the only thing I enjoyed here, much as I like dumb exploitation films. I guess it might mean (mean?) more to you folks on the other side of the Atlantic, but it didn't do much for me, sorry.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Fri Jan 15, 2021 7:57 am
by Dan Warburton
..but this one blew me away last night:

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Eros Puglielli, Occhi di cristallo, 2004

"When a young couple and a peeper are killed in the field with sadism, Inspector Amaldi and his partner Freese unsuccessfully follow the leads trying to track the criminal. Meanwhile, the college student Giuditta is being stalked and goes to the precinct, where she is attended by Amaldi, and immediately they feel a great attraction for each other. When another woman is murdered, Amaldi and Freese realize that they are chasing a serial killer. Amaldi visits Professor Civita, trying to find the meaning of three leaves found in the crime scene. Amaldi, who battles with his violent temper, tries to put the clues together and to avoid the next murder of the unknown psychopath." Imagine a film that can take the best elements of Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac and Profondo Rosso - yes, it can be done and Puglielli's done it: the perfect blend of giallo and serial killer tropes, spectacularly well-filmed, very well acted (though I've been a huge fan of Luigi Lo Cascio ever since La meglio gioventù) and with a plot less convoluted than most gialli (but not without a few tasty red herrings) but one that doesn't let up. If that's not sufficiently glowing as reviews go, you can try this one https://www.hysteria-lives.co.uk/hyster ... ystal.html

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Sat Jan 16, 2021 6:43 am
by Dan Warburton
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Massimo Dallamano, Super Bitch, 1973

The English title is plain stupid, but the Italian original - "Si può essere più bastardi dell'ispettore Cliff?" ("Can anyone be more of a bastard than Inspector Cliff?") is much better. The Cliff in question is our (anti)hero played by the dashing Ivan Rassimov, an anti-drugs agent playing mafiosi and drug traffickers against each other and wiping them all out along the way, until.. (no, I won't spoil the ending). This is a surprisingly good little film, with some excellent location shoots in Lebanon and London, and a snappy Riz Ortolani score to boot. Wonderful to see the great British comic actress Patricia Hayes as Mamma la Turca, a brutal mafia mamma if ever there was one. Great fun for a miserable rainy curfew January evening.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Sun Jan 17, 2021 7:15 am
by Dan Warburton
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Andrew L. Stone, The Steel Trap, 1952

Nine years after she threw him under a train in Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, Teresa Wright is now married to Joseph Cotten :) , but has no idea of his plans to rob the bank where he works and take her (and their daughter) to Brazil, the only country from where extradition back to the US is impossible (in case you think I'm spoiling anything, Cotten's plans are made clear from the outset in his voiceovers), until they find themselves stranded in New Orleans and unable to catch a connecting flight in time. There's a nice sense of impending doom throughout (not helped though by Dmitri Tiomkin's overwrought score), until Cotten has a change of heart, goes home and returns the cash just in time. The result is a rather flaccid happy ending - call it a Frank Capra noir.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:53 am
by Lao Tsu Ben
Dan Warburton wrote:
Fri Jan 15, 2021 7:57 am
..but this one blew me away last night:

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Eros Puglielli, Occhi di cristallo, 2004

"When a young couple and a peeper are killed in the field with sadism, Inspector Amaldi and his partner Freese unsuccessfully follow the leads trying to track the criminal. Meanwhile, the college student Giuditta is being stalked and goes to the precinct, where she is attended by Amaldi, and immediately they feel a great attraction for each other. When another woman is murdered, Amaldi and Freese realize that they are chasing a serial killer. Amaldi visits Professor Civita, trying to find the meaning of three leaves found in the crime scene. Amaldi, who battles with his violent temper, tries to put the clues together and to avoid the next murder of the unknown psychopath." Imagine a film that can take the best elements of Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, Zodiac and Profondo Rosso - yes, it can be done and Puglielli's done it: the perfect blend of giallo and serial killer tropes, spectacularly well-filmed, very well acted (though I've been a huge fan of Luigi Lo Cascio ever since La meglio gioventù) and with a plot less convoluted than most gialli (but not without a few tasty red herrings) but one that doesn't let up. If that's not sufficiently glowing as reviews go, you can try this one https://www.hysteria-lives.co.uk/hyster ... ystal.html
I wasn't as convinced as you. The direction is good and inventive, as the prologue of the film hints at, in a less demonstrative way than pratictioners of neo-giallos such as Cattet and Forzani, whose names I mentioned in the previous page as it happens. It is a rather up-to-par or better-than-average giallo, a genre I've found myself having difficulties with over the years. Leave it to the Italians to conjure some particularly sick atmosphere, redolent of decay and death, but I don't know about those puppets, red wall coverings, and all the paraphernalia typical of the genre.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 20, 2021 11:17 am
by Dan Warburton
Lao Tsu Ben wrote:
Tue Jan 19, 2021 5:53 am
Dan Warburton wrote:
Fri Jan 15, 2021 7:57 am
..but this one blew me away last night:

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Eros Puglielli, Occhi di cristallo, 2004
I wasn't as convinced as you. The direction is good and inventive, as the prologue of the film hints at, in a less demonstrative way than pratictioners of neo-giallos such as Cattet and Forzani, whose names I mentioned in the previous page as it happens. It is a rather up-to-par or better-than-average giallo, a genre I've found myself having difficulties with over the years. Leave it to the Italians to conjure some particularly sick atmosphere, redolent of decay and death, but I don't know about those puppets, red wall coverings, and all the paraphernalia typical of the genre.
Well thanks for snatching it Ben, and for helping me out with my struggling ratio :D - yeah, well, you know I'm a sucker for these tacky gialli, so when I come across one that's better than average it's a turn up for the books (though I think this is much better than average)! Meanwhile -

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Cedric Klapisch, Un air de famille, 1996

- by way of saying adieu to Jean-Pierre Bacri, who's just died at the age of 69, we watched this again, and it was fantastic. Excellent Bacri / Jaoui script, great performances all round, and superb cinematography. Treat yourself, if you want a laugh, goodness knows we need one these days.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:49 pm
by Dan Warburton
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Enzo G. Castellari, Cold Eyes of Fear, 1971

Wiki: "A handsome young playboy (Gianni Garko) picks up a pretty Italian girl (Giovanna Ralli) and brings her to his father's house for some fun. What he doesn't know is that two dangerous convicts are lying in wait at the house to avenge themselves on the young man's father (Fernando Rey), who was the judge who caused them to go to jail. The characters are all trapped together in the house for a very tense night, with the young playboy trying to figure out how to save his dad from a bomb planted at his father's workplace." Not his dad, his uncle, but never mind. The interiors were shot in Cinecitta, but this is yet another Italian 70s film set in London (someone should write a thesis on that point), and you have to hand it to the Italians, the English overdubbing is pretty good: Fernando Rey speaks English like a Spanish cow, as we say here in France, but the sync here is impressive; idem for Garko, Ralla and Julian Mateos. Special shot out for the villain Arthur Welt, played by Corman protégé Frank Wolff, who sadly committed suicide just after shooting wrapped - sordid details following https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Wolff_(actor)

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Thu Jan 21, 2021 1:55 pm
by Dan Warburton
Just restored in 4K (I'm not a great George Lucas fan but I'll buy him a pint if he's ever in my town) and all available at the usual place in glorious 1080. Here's what I wrote a couple of years ago - if you didn't snatch it then, you'd better get it this time. And even if you did snatch it then, grab it again and thrill to the quality. Astounding!
Dan Warburton wrote:
Mon Aug 06, 2018 12:21 am
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Vittorio De Seta, Il mondo perduto, 1954-59

I just can't recommend this highly enough - it's an astounding collection of ten short films shot in Sicily, Calabria and Sardinia, produced, filmed (in technicolor - and goodness knows how he got his camera in some of these places) and edited by De Seta. Each film is perfectly structured, a cinematic poem, with post-synced sounds of the local songs and sounds - but you could freeze the frame just about anywhere and be left with a compostion worthy of Cezanne. The fact that what we see is a disappearing (now, all but disappeared) way of life makes it all so much more poignant and precious. Fishing for tuna and swordfish, mining for sulphur, tending sheep and goats in the bleak snowstorms of Orgosolo or threshing grain by hand in a sweltering Sicilian summer. Do yourselves a favour and check this out. Absolutely sublime.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Sat Jan 23, 2021 1:30 am
by Dan Warburton
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Bertrand Tavernier, Coup de torchon, 1981

Still packs a punch, after several viewings, and even better in this spanking new 1080 BluRay rip, the only drawback being the English subs, which, though eminently correct, fail to catch several nuances of Aurenche's script, notably Huppert's glorious expletives. Noiret, Marielle, Marchand, Mitchell, Audran and Huppert - stellar cast, great filming, hard to find a fault, even if its black - bleak - comedy hits hard. Must re-read the Jim Thompson novel too at some stage.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Mon Jan 25, 2021 12:37 am
by Dan Warburton
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Fritz Lang, Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, 1956

Dennis Schwarz, quoted on the Wiki page: "Cheerlessly written with many plot holes, implausible contrivances and legal absurdities by law school graduate Douglas Morrow, though ably directed by film noir maven Fritz Lang. Lang's last American film is a low-budget twisty courtroom drama about the dangers of capital punishment that ends up being about something more intangible--the unpredictability of fate ... But in this subversive film a perverse atmosphere of subliminal uncertainty prevails over the established surface reality, and the surprise ending comes as more of an emotional shock than as a real surprise--allowing the filmmaker to pass on his cynicism and disillusionment over the human condition. The stark, alluring and unconventional film is worth seeing for the ingenuous way it resolves the brain-teasing dilemma it raised." Hmm, he's being mighty charitable. Ably directed, sure, but Lang was capable of doing much better than merely "able": this tatty B-movie was thrown together in under three weeks and it looks like it. Unnatural dialogue, convoluted plot (much of which has to be simply narrated - instead of shown), unconvincing and implausible twist ending, zero chemistry between Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine (who looks like she's been on a crash diet). While The City Sleeps, from the same year, is so much better.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2021 7:39 am
by Dan Warburton
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Valerio Zurlini, Le ragazze di San Frediano, 1955

Though the title references the girls of San Frediano, the central character is "Bob" (Antonio Cifariello), the garage mechanic who can't resist chatting them up and inevitably gets into some sticky situations he can't always talk himself out of. Not an unfamiliar subject, especially for Italian cinema, but handled deftly by Zurlini (good debut feature). To quote one of only two IMDb user reviews (and there are none elsewhere either, amazingly), "the cultured wit of Zurlini turns the film into a psychological study of human vanity in action worthy of Rohmer, Bunuel, and Fellini, captured in all its essentials and held up for examination, interpretation, and true enlightenment." File alongside Fellini (I vitelloni), Risi (Il sorpasso, Il giovedi) and Bolognini (Una giornata balorda).

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2021 10:59 am
by henriq
Oh god, fuck this awful month - zero energy for much more than work (and hardly enough for that even), but it's coming back to me. Meanwhile, I've watched all of Seinfeld three times these last twelve months. A tonic, that. I have managed to watch and write about this though:

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Bruno de Almeida - On the Run (1999)

Typically torn about this, as so often with American films. It is nice, first off, for a Sopranos-addict like myself to see so many actors from that series in the same movie. (Same casting agents, so natch.) Sharon Angela especially is awesome in her role as boozy femme in a sleazy bar. Though, this is so much Il sorpasso that it’s almost silly - if it isn’t an avowed take on that film, Dino Risi should certainly have things to say to the people responsible here. It even has the same car crash ending, though here the bad guy dies. If you know the Italian film, you know the plot: escaped convict Louis looks up childhood friend Albert, a mawkish travel agent, and they embark on a wild night on the town. Scripted by Joseph Minion, who also penned After Hours for Scorsese, you certainly recognise the terrain. Curious, this is both an improvement on that script, and it makes me miss that earlier film. After Hours is a bit puerile, especially in the latter parts of the film, everything collapsing into a shrieking vaudeville of cackling castration. But the first part has genuine bite, a finely sustained play of attraction-repulsion between Griffin Dunne and Rosanna Arquette. That bite is missing here, though. The acting is brilliant, a real improvisatory feel and flow - watch out for a tiny Agnes Jaoui cameo. A heavy theatre background here (must be - haven’t done much research), and this is a bit of a problem, as I find often with these ensemble pieces. It bears comparison to a European strain of explosive naturalism - think the thronged energies of Patrice Chereau or Maurice Pialat, those glorious scenes of drunken violence with Bong in Memories of Murder or Parasite. (The director is Portuguese.) But here, there is a proscribed, restrained feel to everything, affect and energy telegraphed way in advance. Things don’t erupt, implode or explode with any kind of force or heft, they just sort of happen. You know that there’s going to be trouble with the bouncer in the peepshow, you know that the flirtation struck up between Sharon Angela and John Ventimiglia in the bar is heading south, and badly. The poker game will turn sour and hostile, sure. And you don’t care. Think Larry Peerce’s The Incident, Bette Gordon’s Variety, Abel Ferrara, Scorsese with the mentioned After Hours or King of Comedy, further along with Safdie’s Good Time - and realise to your dismay that this delivers not very much on either of these. No, this has more the lazy coasting of Jim Jarmusch, American indie at its most noodling, and this does not commend it at all to this viewer. But it is better than that, Manhattan certainly looks great, the acting is great, and maybe all movies don’t have to cut and bleed. Torn, as I said.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2021 11:42 am
by Lao Tsu Ben
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Le Monte-charge, Marcel Bluwal, 1962

Le Monte-charge, aka Paris Pick-Up, aka Bird in a Cage - the title of the English translation of the novel by Frederic Dard, who also pens the screenplay here, echoes in a odd way the title of the better known Ascenseur pour l'échafaud released four years earlier. This is a better film, though, a small masterpiece of French film noir, which seems to have been thought out down to the last detail. No Miles' soundtrack but a melancholy, sparsely used theme by Georges Delerue, which sounds strikingly similar in my hears to some of the music churned out by Nyman thirty years or so later. It's amazing how Frederic Dard's novel lends itself so perfectly to the screen : the film is so laconic, the spatial elements of so paramount an importance, one wonders how Dard pulls it off in the novel -which I haven't read. Love how the Paris suburbs are depicted: the bistrots, the going back and forth through the Pont d'Asnières, the meandering quality of the film which is nonetheless tightly bound by a few locations. This makes the feeling of a trap closing itself on the main character, the feeling of menace, very palpable.



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Le Septième juré, Georges Lautner, 1962

While Le Monte-charge has the perfection of a Swiss timepiece, Le Septième juré is looser at the ends but very interesting nonetheless. A bit too verbose, thanks to Bernard Blier's voiceover, which is rather well-written but makes things too explicit and wallows a tad much in that existential ennui so typical, in a clichéd way, of French cinema. Lautner's direction has a physicality that's very impressive, dealing with the main characters as well as the extras in the background with a mix of consideration and solemnity, not devoided of comic at times. The film functions as a Hitchock's Wrong Man in reverse, hinting at all the repressed turmoils of the French society of that time in a rather striking manner.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:20 pm
by henriq
Dan Warburton wrote:
Sun Jan 10, 2021 1:39 am
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Natalia Yu, I am Katya Golubeva, 2016

Fine hour-long documentary on the enigmatic and wondrously beautiful (well, that's just, my opinion, man) Ekaterina Golubeva. A timely reminder to rewatch all those Leos Carax films again, and not only the one she's in. No interview with the elusive Leos, of course, but Sharunas Bartas (also her partner for a while) throws a magnificent sulk and walks offscreen without saying anything. Still, with Golubeva, you don't need words.
Hey, that's my opinion too, man! Spectabulously gorgeous. I'll tell you my favorite scene with her, and possibly one of my favorite in all of cinema history: in J'ai pas sommeil, chased by the obnoxious dragueur into a...porn theater. The only woman there, everyone uncomfortable around her, and the trilling laugh when she understands the silliness of the situation. Warm, funny, wonderful.

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2021 12:58 am
by Dan Warburton
Lao Tsu Ben wrote:
Tue Jan 26, 2021 11:42 am
Le Monte-charge, Marcel Bluwal, 1962

[..] Love how the Paris suburbs are depicted: the bistrots, the going back and forth through the Pont d'Asnières, the meandering quality of the film which is nonetheless tightly bound by a few locations. This makes the feeling of a trap closing itself on the main character, the feeling of menace, very palpable.
I'm in no great hurry to go back to work in Paris, or rather Argenteuil - taking the train from St Lazare I see - saw?) the Pont d'Asnières twice a day - but your review certainly makes me want to return to Le Monte-charge, which I thoroughly enjoyed four or five years ago. Meanwhile, thanks for reminding me to grab this one, Ben

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Le Septième juré, Georges Lautner, 1962

Sigh,so many films, so little time

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:18 am
by Dan Warburton
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Edgar G. Ulmer, The Man from Planet X, 1951

I nearly fell off my chair when I saw how closely the little bloke above resembles Woody's robot character in Sleeper. Of course, it probably wasn't intended to be funny, but surely folks back in 1951 were just as able to piss themselves laughing as we are today (or were they? Strange decade, the 50s..). We're on a Melancholia vibe here, with a large planet due to pass close enough to Earth to cause some major weather damage - turns out a remote Scottish island is the best place to view the carnage from, but the alien beasties have sussed that out too and sent the wee chappie down to check out the local real estate. Turns out we're also on a Man Who Fell To Earth trip here, as the poor buggers from Planet X are doomed to extinction if they don't find alternative accommodation in the next 72 hours. Unfortunately, the foggy bog of the Hal Roach backlot (Ulmer used some old sets from Victor Fleming's Joan of Arc) isn't all that appealing, so they turn the local islanders into zombies (I'm not making this up!) instead. They deserve it for what must be the most appalling attempt at a Scottish accent in cinema history. Anyway, we're not quite in Ed Wood territory here, but fans of the angora sweater lover might find something to enjoy..

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:23 am
by Dan Warburton
henriq wrote:
Tue Jan 26, 2021 9:20 pm

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Natalia Yu, I am Katya Golubeva, 2016


Hey, that's my opinion too, man! Spectabulously gorgeous. I'll tell you my favorite scene with her, and possibly one of my favorite in all of cinema history: in J'ai pas sommeil, chased by the obnoxious dragueur into a...porn theater. The only woman there, everyone uncomfortable around her, and the trilling laugh when she understands the silliness of the situation. Warm, funny, wonderful.
I've been meaning to return to her in Pola X for a while - but I might take a detour via Claire Denis first. Love that film! Great opening - what are they laughing at / about in that helicopter? :D

Re: Recently Watched Films 2021

Posted: Wed Jan 27, 2021 1:24 am
by Dan Warburton
Meanwhile, if you're a Seinfeld fan Henrik, you'll probably like this (you probably know it already?)

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Woody Allen, Whatever Works, 2009

Forget the disgraceful British Prime Minister, this is my kind of Boris: "I knew this day would come. I really did. The universe is winding down, why shouldn't we?" SNL / Seinfeld writer Larry David delivers some of Woody's funniest and most caustic lines with truly vicious misanthropic abandon - great fun, if totally daft plot. Seems it's always open season on Woody Allen, but I find much to agree with in this review https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/j ... len-review - and now I have an intense craving for a plate of knishes.