Published Feb 05, 2009Seeing a Woody Allen movie is like entering a self-contained universe — whether or not it is an accurate representation of the real world is almost beside the point. Remember Celebrity, where the hack journalist played by Kenneth Branagh inexplicably found himself being fellated by a movie star? Or Anything Else, starring Jason Biggs as the young hipster in corduroy slacks and wire-rimmed glasses?
In Cassandra's Dream, Allen turns his eye to the Cockney working class and makes it look suspiciously similar to the affluent cityscapes of his New York films. The characters are impeccably groomed, dressed to the nines in clothing right out of a J. Crew catalogue and spend their free time indulging in contemporary art, theatre and classical music. Woody Allen has been called many things but a realist is not one of them.
Perhaps the success of an Allen film, then, depends on how well he can trick us into accepting his heightened reality. I was tricked sufficiently by Cassandra's Dream to rank it among Allen's better late period work. Cassandra's Dream, which opened over a year ago in the United States, to some of Allen's worst box office, has actually been available on DVD for several months and is only belatedly receiving a Canadian theatrical run. Too bad, as it deserves a fairer shake.
The story of two working-class brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who agree to assassinate an enemy of their uncle (Tom Wilkinson) to get out of debt and start a new life, Cassandra's Dream is another of Allen's morality tales about the psychological repercussions of murder. With Allen's surprising ability to generate suspense, and the loving way he photographs his attractive cast, the film is more Match Point than Crimes and Misdemeanors, and if it lacks the giddy unpredictability of those films, it still manages to evoke the sombre dread of a Greek tragedy.
And then there's the simple aesthetic pleasure of the film's ultra-chic milieu. Damn it, if I had known working-class London was so trendy I'd have moved there long ago! (E1)