Woody Allen thriller for Film Club

July 26, 2017

The man who said “I’d rather be lucky than good” saw deeply into life. There are moments in a tennis match when the ball hits the top of the net and for a split second it can either go forward or fall back.

With a little luck, it goes forward and you win….or maybe it doesn’t, and you lose. This is a short synopsis of this Sunday’s Film Club choice – the Woody Allen movie “Match Point”.

There have been surprisingly few films set around the sport of tennis. I remember a suspenseful Hitchcock film called “Strangers on a Train”, while, more recently, there was the most pleasant chic-flic called “Wimbledon”.

But Woody Allen himself is certainly no stranger to the Film Club. We have enjoyed “Midnight in Paris” (2012) and “Magic in the Moonlight (2016). Allen usually sets his films in New York, but on this occasion, despite his intention to again do just that, he couldn’t raise the funding for the film – probably because of several below-par failures.

When Allen received funding from the BBC, he was required to switch the story from The Hamptons, a wealthy enclave in New York, to London, and to use predominately a British cast and crew. Thus, Allen was to bounce back “bigtime” with this gripping English murder-mystery.

Allen has said that “Match Point” is one of his few “A-films”, and even “arguably may be the best film that I’ve made.

This is strictly accidental – it just happened to come out right. You know, I try to make them all good, but some come out and some don’t. With this one everything seemed to come out right. The actors fell in, the photography fell in and the story clicked. I caught a lot of breaks.” American critic Roger Ebert agreed by giving the movie a full four stars, and considered it among the four best Allen films. He described it as having “a terrible fascination that lasts all the way through.”
“Match Point”, shot in 2005, tells the story of Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a one-time tennis pro, who was used to falling just short in his life. But when he befriends Tom Hewett (Mathew Goode) and marries his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer), the doors are opened to the kind of money and success that he had once only dreamed of. Chris should have settled for happiness, but he is torn by his attraction to Tom’s impossibly beautiful and sensual fiancé Nola (Scarlet Johansson). The attraction turns to an obsession that forces Chris to make a critical choice. Now everything in his life hinges on if Chris falls short again – and whether his luck runs out.

Make no mistake – “Match Point” is an absolute “pot boiler” that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The sense of foreboding is made even more effective by Allen’s use of opera as the film’s soundtrack. The soundtrack consists almost entirely of pre-World War 1 78 rpm recordings of opera arias sung by the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. Allen really is a genius – when his original choice to play Nola (the very English Kate Winslet) withdrew only a week before filming began, he replaced her with American actress Scarlett Johansson. This obviously required fairly major script changes. “No worries”, said Allen, “I did it in about an hour.”

When released, “Match Point” did very well indeed. Shot on the modest budget of 15 million dollars, it went on to recoup 86 million for its backers. It is rated M, and has a running time of about two hours.

NWTC Film Club always welcomes new members. Membership for the remainder of the year is only $30, which, as well as “Match Point” includes “The Insider” (August), “Wah Wah” (September), “Silver Linings Playbook” (October) and “Seabiscuit” (November). In addition there is the members – only Christmas screening on 10th December, with the President’s Pick surprise film. This has now been selected, and will captivate you. There is an additional facility available for members – we have a small library of films owned by the club – at the moment 18 – which are available for hire by members at no charge. Becoming a member is easy – it can be done at the Visitor Information Centre, or before each film screening at the Roxy.

See you at the movies!