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Great Spanish Actress Carme Elias on Almodovar, Venezuela

I had the great privilege and pleasure at the Montreal World Film Festival this past summer to chat with the great Spanish actress Carme Elias, who is just stupendous in the Venezuelan film “La Distancia Mas Larga” or “The Longest Distance”. She also spoke very interestingly about her work with Pedro Almodovar on the film “Flower of My Secret,” one of my all time faves.

Carme played the mistress in the film of Marisa Paredes’ husband.

And in “La Distancia…” she plays an ailing, but determined and very modern grandmother, who goes to the mountains above the Amazon, seeking…she doesn’t quite know what…And Carme plays this end-of-life character with great force and great restraint. She’s utterly beguiling in it. And I hope American audiences soon get to see it. Venezuelan actor Alec Whaite, who co-stars in the film, directed by Claudia Pinto, translates here.

Camera ~ Federico Foa Fuentes
Editing ~ Kevin Teller

Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”

While we await with baited (Oscar bait-ed) breath to see who will win tonight at the DGA Awards out in LA-LA land, I’ve been catching up on a few DVDs that have been coming my way in the snail mail.

While I attended Woody Allen’s press conference at TIFF for “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger”( look it up back in Sept. ’10), I hadn’t seen the movie until just now.

The DVD is coming out soon, and if you’re a die-hard Woody fan, like I am, I guess, EVERY Woody Allen is a must-see. Even his not-so-good ones, like this.

I thought he sounded a tad desperate with that personal TIFF appearance, and I had heard that YWMATDS, was not one of his best. And everyone was right, but there is still SOMEthing about Woody, even at his worst, that grabs you in the end if you stay with it. The press conference was much more entertaining than this film.

No Scarlett Johansson in this one. And I sort of missed her. Again, it is set in London, and more than ever, it seems like he wishes he was shooting it in New York. You can almost hear him sigh with nostaligia…but all his financing is coming from Europe, so in Europe he stays. He’s shot one coming up in Paris, and another London romp, and also a return to Spain where he did seem inspried with the marvelous “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” that won Penelope Cruz her Oscar three years ago…

I don’t think Woody likes the British very much. He doesn’t really GET them, like he gets New Yawkers. He loves New York. He seems to miss it, and so this film’s characters are very superficially observed. And they all seem like neurotic New Yorkers ANYway.

Naomi Watts is Sally in the ScarJo role, I think. But a little older, a little wiser, and much more serious. In fact, this film is hardly funny at all. I barely laughed at all. But I did find myself LISTENING. This is his most serious film since “Interiors”, but I THINK he meant it to  be a comedy…

The title “You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger” comes from what a Cockney fortune teller named Cristal (the always wonderful Pauline Collins) is constantly telling the hapless Helena, Gemma Jones, who is SORT OF the central character, or one of the main characters…A HUGE star in England, ever since she was a beautiful young blonde in the ’60s. Now, Gemma is IN her 60s and playing a daffy, tipsomaniac, an abandoned wife, who is seeking help from the beyond through this soothsayer, who is patently a phony, who mainly serves tea and biscuits and acts as a cheaper psycho-therapist to Jones.

Naomi Watts is her daughter, who is having marital problems, with her blocked novelist of an American husband, Rory, Josh Brolin. EVERY body is cheating on every body else here, per usual in Woody land.

Sir Anthony Hopkins as the desperately exercising ex-husband Alfie of the dumped Gemma Jones, and Naomi Watt’s father, begins by being very pale and wan,a milquetoast ghost of his former robust self, but Hopkins grows in power and force as the film progresses.

I really thought it was VERY bottom draw Woody, but even at that level, Woody grabs you, as you become more and more involved, first with Brolin’s desperate writer, then Hopkins’ desperate older exec. He, OF COURSE, chases after and ultimately bags a hooker, ANOTHER favorite Woody plot, who is decades younger than him, and totally his social inferior…And THEN he marries her…Judy Punch punches it up here as the hooker with a heart of lead.

And the press conference, Punch was there as was Hopkins, Brolin, Jones and Frieda Pinto, who is just sort of generally playing Brolin’s newest muse. Not much depth to this character.

And well, you see where this is going from here…

You can almost predict this film. It’s so by-the-numbers Woody, but then, he hits you with a confounding ending a la the Coen Brothers and suddenly…well, once again, you have to re-think your preceptions about Woody Allen. He DOES get you finally, even if he’s dealing from the bottom of his deck.

I guess I’d rather watch  any mediocre Woody movie than most the other films I, as a critic, am forced to watch throughout the year…Even grade C Woody is still something to see. I’m still a fan. After all these yeas and all these movies. He makes too many movies, and sometimes he seems to be just going through the motions, but…one does cherish those motions…

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