It's Thursday, which is the usual day that movie schedules change (except, of course, when movies open on Wednesday). Two of the more interesting — yes, I'm using that word intentionally — films that have played in Spokane recently are leaving.
Allen's movies aren't likely ever to attract the crowds they once did, his personal foibles attracting a lot of haters. Beyond the fact that that ongoing controversy brings up the ago-old argument about whether we should separate the artist from the art, it also detracts from honest criticism of the art itself. Even though one of the great American filmmakers, Allen has always been inconsistent, capable of making gems such as "Annie Hall" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" and outright duds such as "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy" and "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion."
"Cafe Society," which earned an overall 70 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, might be closer to the latter than the former — at least according to a number of critics. Here are a couple of the comments, bad and good:
Moira MacDonald, The Seattle Times: "Maybe Woody Allen waited too long to make 'Café Society'; it seems, weirdly, to be an uninspired remake of itself."
Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic: "It'll probably never make it into anyone's list of the 10 most-important Allen films. But I'd watch it again over a few movies that would."
Ross' film is a contradiction: a straightforward look at a principled, if-flawed character (played by Viggo Mortensen), that is better made aesthetically than philosophically. It earned a 78 percent rating on RT. Check out two sample remarks, good and bad:
Manohla Dargis, New York Times: "Mr. Mortensen, whose intensity has the sting of possession, has a way of making you believe his characters can do whatever they set their minds to: fly, leap over buildings, save the world."
Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: "In largely succumbing to the very complacency its characters claim to abhor, it turns out to be — I hate to say it — a far less interesting movie than it appears."
As always, my view is that you should go and judge for yourself. It's your last night to see them both first run, here in Spokane, on the big screen.
Addendum: I was going to let this post go as is. But I can't pass up adding my own five cents: "Cafe Society" is far closer to Allen's best work than any of his artistic failures. It's a lamentation, an ode to regret and romantic failures, one that blends a best-hits list of all Allen's familiar emotional concerns — from lost love to fear of death — with great acting and even greater cinematography (by three-time Oscar winner Vittorio Storaro). For me, "Cafe Society" is a must-see. As for "Captain Fantastic," I agree with Chang.