News: Woody Allen's Latest Surprise

Woody Allen

Further interesting developments on the comedy front in Paris. Last night I was browsing through the film listings and came across Fading Gigolo, a new movie directed by and starring John Turturro. From what I could tell online it only opened in America and in a few cities in Europe this weekend and doesn’t have a firm UK release date yet. What caught my eye was the supporting cast. Sharon Stone and, in particular, Woody Allen.

He doesn’t often act in other people’s films and given that he is on a bit of a creative roll following the successes of Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine I’m surprised Allen found the time to fit it in, but I’m glad he did. It’s no Battleship Potemkin, or Annie Hall for that matter, but Fading Gigolo is a touchingly funny romantic film set on the fringes of  the Hassidic Jewish community of New York – Williamsburg I think they say, though I always thought Williamsburg was now hip - the Big Apple’s very own Hoxton.

Allen plays Murray, a typically nervy man whose dermatologist (Stone) wants to have a menage a trois (maybe that’s why it got an early release in France). Allen fixes her and her friend up with - not himself, thank the lord – but his friend Fioravante (Turturro) and accidentally finds himself with a big wad of dollars and a new career as a pimp – cue amusing montages as he showers children with money and friends with new sofas. At the same time one of the women he hooks up with Turturro's 'Virgil Howard' is a widowed orthodox Jew (played by, wait for it, Vanessa Paradis – maybe that’s why it got an early release in France) and the story goes off at a tangent to follow her reawakening following her husband’s death.

But for me it was all about Woody Allen. He dominates every scene he is in, waving his arms about, stuttering and cracking one-liners. In fact doing all the things he usually does in his own films. There is something compelling about Allen that means that whatever film he is in it becomes a Woody Allen film. In his new job as a pimp he calls himself "Dan Bango", which is a very Allen-ish nom de plume. He can't help being funny. His range isn't great, but, boy does it work. I remember him playing a straight role in Martin Ritt's seventies film The Front and the result was still a lot funnier than the comedies he made in his 1990s wilderness years.

There is also the added appeal here that he is not chasing after women much younger than him, though, not knowing anything about the film when I saw it, there was a moment when I thought he was about to do just that. But the film nicely sidles off in a different direction.  

I don't know whether Fading Gigolo will reach the UK before Allen’s own next movie, but for me it certainly filled the gap while I wait. And there is another nice Allen connection here too – Allen’s Fading Gigolo co-star Sharon Stone made one of her first ever movie appearances as “Pretty Girl on Train” in Woody’s Stardust Memories back in 1980. 

 

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