Sunday, December 10, 2017

Wonder Wheel Is the Closest Woody Allen's come to Nailing Ingmar Bergman

There's a poster of Face to Face (1976, Ingmar Bergman) at the Bleecker St cinema in Annie Hall (1977, Woody Allen); Interiors (1978, Allen) is Woody Allen blatantly trying to imitate Bergman's cold claustrophobic theatre with South Hampton filling in for Fårö; in Manhattan (1979, Allen) the Diane Keaton character offends the Allen character by making an offhanded comment that Bergman is overrated; Another Woman (1988, Allen) borrows its plot directly from Wild Strawberries (1957, Bergman) and was shot by Bergman's DP, Sven Nykvist—who also shot Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, Allen) and Celebrity (1998, Allen). But these are just a few coincidences.


Wonder Wheel (2017, Allen) is a period theatrical domestic melodrama about the failed attempts of finding happiness that a handful of characters, whose paths cross on Coney Island, inevitably confront.

Wonder Wheel is uncharacteristically stylized for Allen. From Vittorio Storaro, the lighting is expressionistic, with key moments that burn characters in the glow of fiery sunsets and transition into cold blue darkness before our eyes, underlining the sense of hope departing. The production design by Santo Loquasto adds to the unnatural quality of staging on a constructed set with its forced perspective amusement park backdrop forever contrasting the foreground interior depression of the dysfunctional homelife.

GINNY'S (Winslet) sex headaches, alcoholism, and neurotic lapses into detachment are mirrored by her son's obsession with starting fires and hate of school. Wonder Wheel may be as colorful as Thor: Ragnarok visually, but emotionally it's as dark as oblivion—a fitting contrasting companion piece to the nostalgic warmth of last year's Café Society (2016, Allen).

Jim Belushi is a delightful choice, Juno Temple gives life to CAROLINA, and it'd be a waste of time to say anymore about how well the acting comes off. To say as much would be redundant because it's always been Woody Allen's greatest talent. And along with Crimes and Misdemeanors and Melinda and Melinda (2004, Allen), Wonder Wheel's ending provides no respite, intentionally and profoundly ripping our hearts out with its embodiment of nihilistic existential malaise as the wheel keeps turning. Also the staging of Winslet in the foreground staring off into space is undoubtedly lifted from similar shots of Liv Ullman in Persona (1966, Bergman) and Cries & Whispers (1972, Bergman).

Finally a depressing movie this year!

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1 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Ironic, given that what Woody Allen would WANT to do is nail InGRID Bergman. Until she turned 20, anyway.

3:19 PM  

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