It is always a treat for me to see one of Woody Allen’s films for the first time. Cassandra’s Dream was the last of his released movies that I hadn’t seen, so from now on I will have to wait for his forthcoming films to be released. Good thing he comes out with one every year.
Allen’s main literary influences have always been Marx Brothers writer George S. Kaufmann and S.J. Perlman, whose comedic prose pieces graced the pages of The New Yorker, one the one hand, and Dostoevsky and Chekov on the other. Beginning in the ’80s, Allen reveled in mixing comedy and drama in movies like Hannah and Her Sisters and Crimes and Misdemeanors. More recently, he has alternating between the two, following up the Dostoeyvskian Match Point with the lightweight Scoop. In Cassandra’s Dream, he ventures into extremely dark territory in a tale of two cockney brothers who dream of rising above their origin, who are called upon by their favorite uncle to do an extremely difficult favor. I had only seen Colin Farrell in a small role in the Irish film Intermission, but he was excellent as the tormented and tortured of the two brothers, and Ewan McGregor was adequate as the cool-headed, more ambitious of the two. Tom Wilkinson is amazing in his brief appearance as the uncle. Some people have pointed out that their cockney accents are off, and that there are slips in the British English, such as a working-class family saying “Sunday lunch” instead of “Sunday dinner,” but who cares when the plot is a tightly and compellingly structured as this. Allen wisely opted to not use the period recordings of old jazz and pop tunes he usually employs in favor of using his first score since Bananas back in the early ’70s. The decision resulted in one of Philip Glass’ best scores in a while, adding further ominousness to an already dark tale.