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The last time I interviewed Woody Allen, at his editing suite on Manhattans Upper East Side, he was preparing the release of Match Point (2005), a dark morality play about an ambitiousand ultimately homicidaltennis instructor working his way up the rungs of London societys rigidly defined social ladder. He had also just turned 70 and was, in his own words, "fighting off morbid resignation." When I visited Allen again earlier this month, I found him in a considerably more jovial mood befitting his latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona , a breezyif also homicidalcomedy about two American tourists (played by Allens 21st-century muse, Scarlett Johansson, and newcomer Rebecca Hall) who, while on vacation in Spain, find themselves caught up in a romantic quadrangle involving a passionate Spanish painter (Javier Bardem) and his unstable ex-girlfriend (Penelope Cruz). In addition, Allen has already completed another filmthe first he has made in New York since 2004 titled Whatever Works, starring Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm creator Larry David, and scheduled for release next year. Over the course of a wide-ranging conversation, I talked to the now 72-year-old filmmaker about his recent work, his extended European sojourn and his upcoming night at the opera.When we spoke three years ago, I was surprised by the candor with which you were willing to discuss your own work. You told me, for example, that you thought Hollywood Ending (2002) was a funny film that the critics didnt quite get, while The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) was one that didnt turn out as well as youd hoped. So, Im curious how you assess your three most recent films: Scoop (2006), Cassandras Dream (2007) and now Vicky Cristina Barcelona ?
WOODY ALLEN: Well, Scoop I found to be a trivial little Kleenex of a film amusing, provided you like me and you like Scarlett. But its not worth much in the scheme of things. If youre not doing anything on a hot afternoon and you want to get into the air conditioning, you can watch it. Its got some pleasant jokes in it; its got some invention, but it doesnt undertake to say anything of significance. I mean, I dont hate it, but for me its a lightweight little interlude kind of filmwhich I, from a personal point of view, enjoy making from time to time.
Cassandras Dream I thought was a good picture that people have not flocked to in any quantity at all. But I thought it was a completely engrossing movie, brilliantly acted by everybody, and I was very satisfied with it much more satisfied than with other films of mine that have been much bigger successes. And Vicky Cristina Barcelona was a pleasant surprise to me. I wanted to do a film in Barcelona. I created it for Barcelona. I knew Penelope was going to be in it and I was pretty sure Javier was going to be in it, so when I was writing it, I had the two of them in mind. Scarlett I think of for everything because shes great, so I was just lucky she was available and I could get those two women in the film and juxtapose them. Rebecca Hall I didnt know. Juliet Taylor, my casting director, said, Youve got to meet this girl. So I did, and she was perfect. Shes not Scarlett and shes not Penelopeshes completely some other thing. Of course, when you speak to her in real life, shes British; shes doing the whole picture in an American accent. Then, when I cut the film together and put in the music, I was shocked that it seemed to float. I thought, Maybe its just me. But when we started showing it to people, they really were enthusiastic about itenormously enthusiastic.
Thats interesting, because youve said in the past that the experience of cutting a movie together and screening it for the first time can be pretty unpleasant.
When you come in here, as I just did that with this movie I shot with Larry Davidthe first time you put all the stuff together and you show it on the screen, youre hoping that youre going to get a feeling of, God, this is much better than I thought! And invariably, its not that feeling. Invariably, its, Oh, God, what did I do? Ive disappointed everybody. Ive made a fool of myself. Its awful. Sometimes youre rightit never gets any better. But sometimes youre wrongwe take the junky moments out, and the good moments happen much faster. We take a little scene from here and put it over there, and suddenly it shifts the whole feeling of the film. Very often, we come back in here the second time and it looks much better, and then by the third or fourth time, it starts to really take shape. With this Spanish movie, it looked fairly good the first time I saw it. That was true of Match Point as well.
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