Woody Allen's possible swansong is... Good?
Venice went three for three this year when it comes selecting films from problematic directors. The triple tap of Luc Besson, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen has been a bitter pill to swallow for some.
Indeed, the festival organisers drew fierce condemnation for these inclusions in the programme, as many festival-goers feel it is an insult to survivors.
Allen, for his part, was on the Lido to present his fiftieth film, and did not do himself any favours by flapping his 87-year-old trap.
Still, you’ll find divided opinions, as the premiere of Coup de Chance ignited some relatively minor protests but also had fans cheering him on. The film also received a three-minute standing ovation, and some boisterous clapping during the press screening.
Whether you champion the “cancellation” of Woody or attempt to maintain some sort of perspective for a man twice cleared of allegations, at the end of the day, it’s all about the film.
And it's... Good?
Written and directed by Allen, Coup de Chance is a French-language thriller that follows Fanny (Lou de Laage ) and Jean (Melvil Poupaud), who are living the bourgeois Parisian dream – or so it seems.
She’s an art auctioneer who has moved up in the world, from bohemian turtleneck wearer to “society lady” who orders the maid to bring “Monsieur” a cognac when her husband gets back from work.
He’s a self-made millionaire with rumoured shady practices, a slicked hairline that deserves nothing but scorn, as well as penchant for train sets and deer hunting on the weekends.
They both live in a gorgeous apartment, and the only major blip is that Fanny often feels like her possessive husband’s “trophy wife”.
Things change when she bumps into Alain (Niels Schneider), a former high school classmate and aspiring writer. He was madly in love with her back then, and sparks seem to fly when they cross paths once more. A dalliance ensues, and Fanny will have to decide whether to succumb to the chance encounter’s possibilities or adhere to her husband’s view of making one’s own luck.
For the first half of Coup de Chance, you know exactly where it’s going. Adultery; one life full of comfort vs the unknown; Woody’s beautifully lit version of Paris that doesn’t exist (props to cinematographer Vittorio Storaro). It is also populated with two male leads who couldn’t be more different and yet similar in the sense they’re insufferable archetypes who need a strong knee in the unmentionables.
It’s not the actors’ faults, but the script’s – as Woody never passes a single opportunity to lay it on a bit too thick. Jean is the archetypical blowhard whose lines are comically OTT; Alain lays it on way too thick, constantly talking about his past feelings and ending up as a Mallarmé-reading stereotype of a Mallarmé-reading stereotype.
However, something strange occurs – something which coincides with more screen time for Valerie Lemercier, who play’s Fanny’s mother. The film takes something of a darker and goofier turn, with Lemercier cast as a sort of Gallic Miss Marple. No further spoilers here. Safe to say though that then and only then do the hokey lines and panto-level character developments reveal themselves to be deliberately absurd.
As such, Coup de Chance becomes Match Point ’s clumsier French cousin, one that is more forgettable but that does build to a very satisfying conclusion.
It’s no late-career highpoint, mind you, but there’s no denying that after a decade of dross, Coup de Chance is Woody’s most cohesive film since Blue Jasmine. It’ll also probably be his last, as Allen has stated that he’s tired of fighting for funding for his projects; and if it is to be his swansong, there are far worse ways to go. (See: Polanski’s The Palace, also screening in this year’s Out of Competition section.)
That is, in itself, a stroke of luck.