Wry star-packed Woody Allen tale wows Cannes

CANNES, Claire Rosemberg- "Life's a pretty grim enterprise, nightmarish, meaningless," Woody Allen said Saturday at Cannes. "The only way to be happy is to lie to yourself."
In his latest loopy offering -- star-studded "You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger" -- the 74-year-old director offers an at once hilarious and typically bleak metaphysical take on countering death and adversity through illusion.

Woody Allen
Woody Allen
Set in London, the warmly acclaimed movie kicks off with a quote from Shakespeare -- "life's a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" -- and the Disney tune "If you wish upon a star your dreams come true."
The plot sees a power cast of characters hankering to change their lives.
Naomi Watt's character, Sally, wants to have a baby, open an art gallery and sleep with her boss (Antonio Banderas).
Her husband (Josh Brolin) hopes to get a novel published and sleep with a neighbour (Slumdog Millionaire's Freida Pinto).
Sally's father (Anthony Hopkins) wants to start a new Viagra-powered life with a very young call-girl (Lucy Punch) after divorcing elderly Gemma Jones.
She simply wants to get over being dumped to find a new life and "tall dark stranger", so goes to a fortune-teller for help after drugs and therapy fail and she winds up believing in the afterlife.
"I don't believe in fortune-tellers," Allen said at a news conference. "In the movie it may be funny but in real-life it's a multi-million business that takes advantage of people when they're vulnerable."
Delivered with his usual buckets of wry ambiguous humour, the movie seems to state that "one must have delusions to live", as Allen put it.
Even the title, he admitted, could refer to death or to a love-interest stranger.
"My relationship with death remains the same," he told the media. "I am strongly against it."
Asked whether he aimed to again play in one of his own movies as he used to, the US director said "I got too old. It's no fun not being the guy who gets the girl."
Growing old, he added, was painful. "It's a lousy deal. There is no advantage in getting older. You don't get smarter, wiser or more mellow.
"Your back hurts, you get more indigestion, you get a hearing aid. It's a bad business. I don't recommend it."
The movie is Allen's fourth set in London, where the grey skies, he said, were perfect for photography and where shooting was far less expensive than in the United States.
His next will be shot in France, starring Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard and French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.
As if to announce a sequel, the Gemma Jones character states at the end that she loves France.

Sunday, May 16th 2010
Claire Rosemberg

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