Sunday, May 17, 2015

Woody Allen Premieres 'Irrational Man,' Regrets Amazon Show

Any film that begins with a philosophy professor, played by Joaquin Phoenix, cruising in the bright sunlight musing to himself about Kant's "unanswerable" questions is going to charm me immediately (I also teach Kant). Indeed, Woody Allen's Irrational Man, which just premiered at Cannes, is a sunny joy to watch, despite its sinister subject: a philosopher named Abe who cannot find meaning in life--until he commits a radical act. Perhaps--I suspect--it is the abundance of sun in each scene and the jazzy soundtrack by the Ramsay Lewis Trio that makes the film so uplifting. Woody Allen privileges outdoor shots, each in a pleasant upper-class locale in Newport, Rhode Island, where the professor has come to teach.
Woody Allen returned to the Cannes Film Festival on Friday to show his latest film, "Irrational Man," speak about what he called the meaninglessness of life and confess that trying his hand in television was "a catastrophic mistake."

In "Irrational Man," a Rhode Island drama about a despairing academic, Joaquin Phoenix stars as a flask-swilling philosophy professor who has come to dismiss his subject as "verbal masturbation." As he befriends a young student played by Emma Stone, he contemplates a Dostoyevsky-inspired murder plot.

It's Allen's 11th film at Cannes but the 79-year-old writer/director's films have always played out of competition, as he has long disdained prizes in art.

"Irrational Man," due in U.S. theaters July 17, received a mixed reaction Friday from the critics at Cannes. For Allen film fans, however, the movie had many of his traditional hallmarks. Although set in a new locale for the director, "Irrational Man" contains familiar struggles with finding meaning in life, a romance with a younger woman and a general lightness of tone even amid the possibility of murder.

Allen told reporters that he and his protagonist both have similar feelings about the usefulness of philosophy.

"There's no positive answer to the grim reality of life, no matter how much the philosophers talk to you or the priests or the psychologists," said Allen. "The bottom line after the all talk is: Life has its own agenda and it runs right over you while you're prattling. We're all going to wind up in the same position sooner or later."