Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sweet and Lowdown

Movie Name: Sweet and Lowdown
Year of Release: 1999
Director: Woody Allen
Stars: Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Uma Thurman, Anthony LaPaglia, Gretchen Mol, James Urbaniak, John Waters, Brian Markinson
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Synopsis & Review:
1999 saw another Woody Allen release, following "Celebrity" which came out in 1998. The film focuses on Emmet Ray, a jazz guitarist who achieved some acclaim in the 1930s. Emmet Ray is a womanizer who thinks that falling in love will ruin his musical career. While on a date, Emmet meets Hattie, a shy and mute laundress. After an awkward start, their relationship blossoms, but Emmet is convinced that he should not settle down with a single woman, and yet on a whim marries a socialite by the name of Blanche Williams. Emmet soon realizes this marriage is an uninspiring one and tries to go back to Hattie.
"Sweet and Lowdown" was a return to a better critical reception for Woody Allen, after "Celebrity" which was considered a minor effort in his long career. The film maintained the focus on his anti-heroes who constantly sabotage their romantic relationships and invariably find out the love of their lives is the one who got away. This film combines Woody Allen's traditional focus on relationships, with the other emphasis going to music, another one of his loves, particularly Jazz music (and the score selection for this film is impeccable, as usual). The film perfectly captures the energy and environment of the clubs of the 1930s, bringing with it an air of nostalgia that brings to mind other films such as Peter Bogdanovich's "Paper Moon". One of the indelible points of the film are the fantastic performances from Sean Penn and Samantha Morton, both of whom got Academy Award nominations, and for whom this film turned out to be a watershed moment (this was Sean Penn's second nomination after Tim Robbin's "Dead Man Walking" and Morton's big calling card, until Steven Spielberg cast her in "Minority Report"). The cinematography of Zhao Fei is stunning as is the production design of Santo Loquasto. A very good film always worth revisiting.