Video of the Day


Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

« In Which We Are A Freshman Who Just Discovered Kierkegaard »

London, By Woody


When Match Point premiered in 2005, British reviewers railed against Allen’s skewed version of London, as if the film had anything to do with a reality other than the one inside his head. The movie was originally supposed to be shot in the Hamptons but after a series of flops (Melinda and Melinda, Hollywood Ending) Allen couldn’t get backing from American studios. The BBC offered to pay if he filmed in the UK and cast British actors. The result is a sexier Crimes and Misdemeanors set in upper-class London as envisioned by someone who never really left New York.

To recap: Jonathan Rhys Meyers is Chris Wilton, a scary, flat-eyed tennis teacher from Ireland. He marries into the wealthy Hewitt family and has an affair with his wife’s brother’s fiance, Nola Rice (Scarlett Johannson). She gets pregnant. He kills her, then gets away with it because God is dead and human life lacks both purpose and design.

The Hewitts’ daily agenda consists of drinking gin, going to the opera, buying art from museums or talking about doing these things. Wilton lives next to the Thames and works in the Gherkin where he’s rewarded handsomely for a job that requires no visible labor. The city itself is boiled down to a handful of symbols: Tate Modern, the Royal Opera House, the West End, and a fleet of black cabs to speed us through the negative space in between.

In Manhattan and Vicky Christina Barcelona, Allen does the same thing, whittling Manhattan and Barcelona down to imaginary versions of themselves. But those films play out like love songs, while Match Point is one step removed from a suicide note. With its wet, empty sidewalks and sky like an endless yawn, London embodies the exact sort of lonely nihilism this movie is about.

Match Point’s critics complain that the allegory is too literal, the dialogue wooden and off-putting, the overt references to Dreiser and Doestoevsky like something out of a bad student film. It helps if you don’t plumb it for a depth it never claims to possess. Instead, Allen makes it easy to float along on a sea of images without doing much thinking.

Free from the burden of character development, Allen funnels all his angst and energy into visual manipulation, every scene as deliberately lighted and composed as an Ingres painting. The film is like a champagne truffle for your eyes, two hours of cashmere and expensive tweed, sleek shiny hair and perfectly symmetrical faces.

ScarJo’s Nola is all pale curves and blue circles, a sensual Easter egg. She’s supposed to be sexy, not beautiful. We know this because she tells us, and because when she and Chris have sex, her flesh squeezes past the point her jeans can contain. We see love handles, a vague hint of stretch marks, flaws designed to make her all the more desireable for their corporeality.

Lots of critics saw Match Point as Woody Allen’s return to form, and it was his first financial success after a long string of bombs. Allen has said he thinks of it as one of the best films he’s ever made. And it’s true that the movie is pretty and funny and smart. It is also two hours and forty minutes long. After awhile, it starts to feel like listening to a freshman who just discovered Kierkegaard and hasn’t figured out that existential crises don’t matter. OK, yes.

Life is meaningless, our brief sojourns on earth random and tragic. But what about Groucho Marx or a Sentimental Education by Flaubert or Swedish movies or the crabs at Sam Wo’s or Tracy’s face?

Sarah LaBrie is the senior contributor to This Recording. She blogs here.

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe

"Shut Your Eyes" - Shout Out Louds (mp3)

"Very Loud" - Shout Out Louds (mp3) highly recommended

"There's Nothing" - Shout Out Louds (mp3)


References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Pinkie
    I found a great...
  • Response
    Response: Jarred
    I found a great...
  • Response
    Response: Sadie

Reader Comments (2)

[...] It is also two hours and _four_ minutes long. [...]

June 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentervferi

you make a good case for this movie as a companion piece to Closer. late period films by once celebrated 60s/70s directors set in London about glossiness and sex that act as if they're much more important and serious than they really deserve.

July 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterMolly

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.