At 87 years old and 50 films as a directorit is worth asking what we expect from an artist like Woody Allen. His name remains like a brand, prestigious but deteriorated, problematic, uncomfortable; I think that it should not be like that, and that in any case we must differentiate the author from his work, but the truth is that we must be careful when talking about his films. And he doesn’t help either. Possibly because he doesn’t care, especially at this point. In fact, keep doing what you want.
Maintain your routine, shoot your movies. Where they allow it, where you can roll them comfortably, until it becomes impossible. He could have retired a long time ago but he must find some pleasure in the process of directing films. A cinema that is becoming less and less interesting. Even movie lovers. A common question in conversations about Allen is: what was your last movie ? ‘Match Point’ (2005) is often mentioned and in fact he himself has used it as a hook to sell ‘Stroke of luck‘ (‘Coup de Chance’, 2023). They have elements in common, yes.
‘Blow of luck’ places us in Paris and part of casual encounter between Fanny (Lou de Laage) and Alain (Niels Schneider). They were high school classmates and the reunion is a pleasant surprise. They catch up. The two have been married; her twice and, she claims, her current husband helped her overcome her previous failed marriage. On the contrary, Alain is now free, enjoys his “bohemian life” and soon confesses that he was always in love with Fanny.
When she returns home, we meet the husband, Jean (Melvil Poupaud), and we see that they form a stable, charming and apparently exemplary couple within the Parisian upper class. They are rich, they go to parties, they seem happy. Of course, Fanny sees Alain again, who insists on talking about her past crush and shamelessly seducing her. She begins to consider another life; She cheats on her husband and what happens that we already knew was going to happen from minute 1. Fanny’s peaceful existence collapses because of this new love.. Cornered, she must make a key decision. But Jean began to suspect that something was not right and things got out of control…
Just in case, in case someone hasn’t heard about ‘Match Point’ or hasn’t seen the trailer (which almost spoils the entire plot), Woody Allen takes care to highlight an important detail from Jean’s past: the death of a former partner, a mysterious event that helped him prosper and bury a possible fraud that would have ended his career. They comment on it several times. When “the twist” happens, Fanny’s mother, Aline (Valerie Lemercier), becomes an unexpected detective but she only has to add 2 + 2. The film soon shows its cards and lacks real surprises.
‘Blow of luck’, more crimes and fouls but now in French
In fact, Woody Allen is more interested the moral conflict, the reflection and evolution of the characters, the consequences of their actions and how they are faced, and prefers to focus more on the before and after than on the turn of events that changes everything. Forks a movie about chance, about how our lives are determined by a “stroke of luck” (it is inevitable to remember the tennis metaphor in ‘Match Point’), so recreating the violent act would divert attention (and Allen is not comfortable with those scenes) . The way he solves the crime is ingenious and elegant, perhaps the best idea in the film.
There is a direct tribute to Alfred Hitch___ in the living room of Jean and Fanny’s house, although the way of facing crime is very different from that of the master of suspense. There is a lot of talk about Woody Allen’s films as if he only made romantic comedies with a lot of dialogue, neuroses and cultural references, but to the New Yorker He has always been fascinated by crimeperhaps because of his origins but certainly also because of his passion for the seventh art, so linked to violence.
Numerous characters who live outside the law appear frequently in Allen’s work, who has played with plots where his protagonists are involved in murders, robberies and crimes. In fact, he debuted with the comedy ‘Take the money and run‘, starring himself. More dramatic is ‘Crimes and misdemeanors‘, still his masterpiece in this field. Other examples are ‘Bullets Over Broadway’, ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’‘, the aforementioned ‘Match Point’ or ‘Cassandra’s Dream‘, which has always seemed undervalued to me. And in all of them the element of luck appears, reminding us that we do not control our destiny.
‘Stroke of luck’ It is entertaining, of course, pleasant to seea quality production with an expert director and Vittorio Storaro in charge of photography so that everything looks great, but the narrative doesn’t quite work because it’s basically a watered down version of Allen’s best crime stories. The characters are not that interesting, perhaps because they filmed in French for the first time (remember ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ and its use in Spanish) but my bet is that, simply, the filmmaker was not inspired by the development of the premise.
I think his biggest problem is in the character he has. the shadiest behaviors and conflicts of the movie. Regardless of whether he is unpleasant or unfriendly, his development is implausible, he twists to the extreme and ends up blurred, a parody of a villain who relaxes with his toy trains. The film always plays with a light tone and balances between comedy and drama with the filmmaker’s usual skill, in fact it is very funny how he transforms a character into the investigator, but the balance gets out of hand in the last act.
When things reach a point of no return, actions become a crazy comedy and we can only wait to see how it ends. And in the end a creative decision is made that seems totally failed to me, underlining the thesis in such a clumsy way that it seems as if Woody Allen had grown tired of his own story. The message and it’s over, on to something else. He has always said with humor that it’s okay if we don’t like a movie, because he has another one on the way. Now times have changed and I may not have another chance. It would be a shame if he closed his career with this French adventure, perhaps better than some of his latest comedies (debatable) but certainly far from his most brilliant works.