★★★ @Rio Cinema, Dalston
To Rome With Love continues Woody Allen’s attempt to take rich Americans to every major city in Europe. Yet the cities – Barcelona, Paris, Rome – are never the real subject of his films, merely picturesque backdrops for rich, neurotic Americans.
It’s predictably predictable and corny for most of its running length, with the few successful jokes it does have concentrated at the beginning, when it feels like famous actors – Alec Baldwin, Penelope Cruz, Woody Allen himself – are making cameos. But then the realisation that this is a semi-serious film sets in and the presence of some great actors cannot save the predictable plot and wooden dialogue. Plus Jesse Eisenberg (channeling Allen perhaps?) is really irritating.
Woody Allen clearly has nothing left to say, but is determined to continue saying it in as many lovely European cities as possible. There is a gradually receding charm and humour to his recent efforts – the rehashing of the formula yields some, inevitable laughter. But it is not enough.
This is a very enjoyable gangster crime thriller from the director of The Assassination of Jessie James… Brad Pitt puts in a superb performance and is backed up by an excellent cast that includes James Gandolfini and Ozzie actor Ben Mendelsohn (I recognised him from the bleak but brilliant Animal Kingdom). It is tightly edited and comes in at a nice running time of 100 minutes. However the political subtext is laid on a bit thick, and the connection between the world of underground crime and the U.S. economic system could have been drawn better. Still, there is much to like in this slick, smart film.
Berberian Sound Studio is a bit mad, but also a bit uninteresting. It’s received rave reviews, including PB in the Guardian, but it failed to move me. Part-horror and part-thriller, the visual and audio effects are visceral and stunningly crafted, and the acting is very good (especially lead actor Toby Jones). However the plot veers from non-existent to mental in the final 20 minutes, and I left Dalston’s Rio Cinema wondering what all the fuss was about. Easy to admire but hard to love – one for the uber-auteurs perhaps?