It is amazing what lowered expectations can do to a film.
I was very much a fan of Match Point and when this came out a few months ago the word was that it was a complete retread of Match Point, just not as good. And, frankly, that is a fair enough synopsis. It has none of the startling upper class WOW factor of Match Point’s look and the acting isn’t up to that level either. What’s unfortunate about Woody Allen is that he’s so open in interviews. He has stated (you can track down the NPR podcast if you like) that he pretty much hates being on set these days and shoots his films as quickly as possible. As many master shots as possible, very few takes. I’m guessing very little rehearsal time, too. And even a good actor like Tom Wilkison or Ewen MacGregor is not going to get everything in the master. When there are inserts there are queasy jumps (watch Colin Firth’s arms in the scene under the tree) because everything is such a free-for-all that nothing is going to match. It’s the way Dylan records most of his albums and sometimes you get Empire Burlesque instead of Blood on the Tracks.
Still – the relentlessness of the story here. And the characters – since they DO have so much time to be on screen unedited – they get a chance to really pollenate your understanding. There were times when I felt this may’ve been much better served as a play, as there are relatively few cinematic tricks being utilized – shocking when you consider that Vilmos Zsigmond shot it and Philip Glass scored it. Nevertheless, the movie got under my skin enough – and I don’t think it is because I am a Woody Allen apologist. The specificity of the conflicts, the mundane reactions, are something you don’t see in movies too much. For all of Cassandra’s Dream being a retread, it is somewhat unique.