25 Oct, 2020 @ 14:00
1 min read

REVIEW: Four major problems with Woody Allen’s latest film based in Spain’s San Sebastian


WOODY Allen struggled to find a distributor for his latest film Rifkin’s Festival after sexual abuse allegations shunned the director from Hollywood.

But Spain opened him with open arms when Tripictures agreed to distribute the movie. A safe space for Allen, the director also chose to premier the film in Spain in the very city where it was based: San Sebastian.

To give the film its debut in a country where he’s particularly revered was a cowardly attempt from Allen to safeguard his reputation as an artist.

But, as the adage goes, you can’t polish a turd and this film has fundamentally faecal flaws. Even Allen’s publicists can’t conceal that forever.

  1. Self-indulgent nostalgia
    Citizen Kane, The Seventh Seal, The Exterminating Angel-— you name it Allen bastardises it. Harking back to other directors’ cinematic masterpieces, Allen inserts black and white dream sequences into the narrative of Rifkin’s Festival in a move that is excluding for non-cinephiles and overused for everyone else. The 2009 rom-com 500 Days of Summer pulled this move to greater comedic effect. Allen should have enough years behind him to know quoting someone else doesn’t make you clever.
  2. An unlikable and problematic protagonist
    Mort Rifkin is an art snob with a monotone voice and a crush on a younger woman. The film details the neuroses and worries of the old man and, no matter the supposed irony of following such a stick-in-the-mud around, to spend time with this character is as uncomfortable as it is boring. He’ll reminded you of your friend’s creepy uncle.
  3. Tepid writing
    Rifkin is an author with writer’s block who will not finish his novel until its up to the same standards as Joyce or Dostoevsky. It is clear Allen does not share the same commitment to excellence. Carelessly shooting out yearly screenplays, the 84-year-old has chosen quantity over quality. Rifkin’s Festival stands on the shoulder’s of the ghost of Allen’s previous successes. The jokes aren’t funny for anyone born after 1970.
  4. San Sebastian is saturated
    One of the charms of San Sebastian is sometimes you will inevitably be battered by sleet rain. But rather than relax into the storminess of the Basque city, Rifkin’s Festival has been colour graded to the point of absurdity. Actors’ skin glows highlighter orange and landscapes are jarringly phosphorescent.

Gina Gershon acts as the saving grace to this otherwise catastrophic piece of cinema. With a generous and diverse performance she provides moments of relief to the otherwise bland and repetitive Allen repertoire.

Gina Gershon
GERSHON: The saving grace to Rifkin’s Festival

Pedro Sanchez
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