Louis CK’s meditation on Woody Allen comes in the form of a black-and-white film shot in secret on 35mm that has yet to see release because of sexual harassment controversies that reached a peak around CK around the time the film was set to release. This adds a fascinating metatextual layer to the film – Allen’s career is trucking along just fine, with all his sexual misconduct controversies the film explores not having the same impact on his career the ones around CK’s did. It’s like a bizarre case of performance art, unseen by most since the film is only available to view through screeners, whether legitimately obtained or pirated.
The film is airless at time, and meandering throughout, throwing up many interesting questions (how should we treat figures like Allen, what level of control is appropriate in a parental relationship, how is feminine sexuality treated in a patriarchal society, what value is there in work for work’s sake, etc.), but kind of backs out from making much of a judgement on any of them. Is that toothless, or just reflective of CK’s shaggy style that the film itself ponders over the non-judgementality of?
The film’s critique of power, perversion, patriarchy, and so on is fascinating at times, and the cast is game (Malkovich is of course the highlight), and I think the metatextual elements behind the film’s (lack of) release make it especially fascinating to engage with.
The music works as homage, the visuals at times work as tribute but at times come off as a little too shaggy (some strange editing and blocking in certain scenes, a consequence of the rushed, secret production I suppose). The film never really reaches its attention, and tapers off from its more interesting points, but the cast is very enjoyable throughout, the questions it raises are fascinating (especially in the context of the film itself, although the way the film backs away from doing much beyond just raising questions feels like a waste), and any discussion the film hoped to raise feels neutered by the almost performative aspects of its “release”. It’s fascinating. Certainly not near the heights of CK’s show “Louie”, but a fascinating film in its own right. Three boats, and an Emmy.