The director’s 49th film -set at the San Sebastian Festival and chosen for the opening of the 2020 edition of that show- is also one of the least inspired of his prolific career.
Rifkin’s Festival (Spain-United States/2020). Script and direction: Woody Allen. Cast: Wallace Shawn, Gina Gershon, Elena Anaya, Louis Garrel, Christoph Waltz and Sergi López. Music: Stephane Wrembel. Photography: Vittorio Storaro. Editing: Alisa Lepselter. Distributor: Digicine. Duration: 92 minutes. Suitable for ages 13 and up.
Woody Allen has been punished for several years (decades) for his actions in his private life rather than for the quality of his filmography. I am far from ascribing to the culture of cancellation and this clarification has to do with the fact that there is no prejudice in this text encouraged by the dictatorship of political correctness: simply Rifkin’s Festival It seems to me one of the most clumsy, schematic, hackneyed, listless, predictable and unfunny films of the career of someone who was once the greatest emblem of the New York intelligentsia.
For a long time Woody (precisely because of the media bombardment that has practically determined his stoning and cancellation) has found it impossible to obtain financing and for this reason he has wandered a lot around Europe to film in London, Paris, Rome and various areas of Spain with the objective to justify with stories set there the contributions of local producers. This new project with The MediaPro Studio has now taken him to San Sebastián and, more precisely, to the prestigious festival that is based there.
Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn), a writer who carries a long creative block that prevents him from writing a novel “at the height of Dostoevsky”, arrives at this paradisiacal coastal enclave of the Basque Country to accompany his wife Sue (Gina Gershon), a press agent who has a lot of work ahead of her in the framework of the festival (there is a cameo by the director of the San Sebastián show, José Luis Rebordinos) and in the luxurious facilities of the traditional María Cristina hotel.
It will not take us long to realize that she is having an affair with Philippe (Louis Garrel… parodying his father?), an arrogant French director with as many authorial airs as whims who has a film in competition, while he begins to becoming increasingly obsessed with Jo (Elena Anaya), an attractive and frustrated local doctor who is married to a despotic and unbridled plastic artist (Sergi López).
Temptation, infidelity and guilt have been recurring themes in Allen’s work, but his 49th feature film is a mere accumulation of clichés in which each new scene is more underlined and grotesque than the previous one, almost as if underestimating an audience that everything must be digested and over-explained when Woody fans are supposed to have an intellectual level that would allow them to decode more subtle, disturbing and intelligent conflicts and resolutions. Even the tribute to Ingmar Bergman of the seventh seal, with a special appearance by Christoph Waltz, is obvious and frustrating. As the general experience of approaching Rifkin’s Festival.
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Reviews: Review of Woody Allen’s Rifkin’s Festival