Cafe Society

Café Society Dir. Woody Allan. ( Shortlisted for ‘Un Certain Dedain’)

This is the perfect foil for the above. (Captain Fantastic). Where ‘Captain’ glowers, ‘Café’ glitters. It’s another American Dream. If you want to immerse yourself in a spangle of Hollywood glamour, this is the film for you. The production has the polish of a thousand mirrors: it’s Hollywood on Hollywood on Hollywood. The plot (poor-ingenue-who-prefers-café-to-chic-party-becomes-night-club-manager-for-thug-brother-with-heartbreak-en-route) glides along, carrying us in its slipstream, its pattern scarcely rippling the surface of a river of life made silver smooth by the Californian sun.

The young hero eels along his career with all the charm of a fist-full of baby oil. With a face that denies character, he is clearly meant for Woody himself, and Woody’s presence insists as narrator: cocooning, in plain language, the plain events as they unfold, plainly.

The sheath dresses are as silky, the Deco buildings as white, the pools as blue, the night club as nightclubby as any you’ve ever seen. It’s a milieu laced through with the normalisation of ambition, violence, spite and betrayal.  The film has its shallows: you may find the portrayal of Jewish life a trifle under-nuanced.  It certainly is not all it seems. The humour runs deep, deep as the longed for sturgeon in a fisherman’s dream, though the conscious observer is at last rewarded by a fish scale flash: ‘ I’m not afraid to die’, ‘ That’s because you’re too stoopid to see the implications’. Don’t blink.

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