Rifkin’s Festival (2020)
Directed by: Woody Allen | 92 minutes | romance, comedy | Actors: Gina Gershon, Elena Anaya, Louis Garrel, Sergi López, Wallace Shawn, Christoph Waltz, Tammy Blanchard, Steve Guttenberg, Georgina Amorós
Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn) accompanies his wife Sue (Gina Gershon) to the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. Mort is a jaded writer and ex-film teacher. Sue is a publicist with a crush on her client, the up-and-coming film director Philippe (Louis Garrel). Mort suspects that Sue is being unfaithful, but because she is constantly busy with her work during the trip, there is never a confrontation. Instead, Mort explores the streets of San Sebastian, hoping to find inspiration for his new novel. Through an acquaintance he comes into contact with doctor Jo Rojas (Elena Anaya), a woman with whom he shares an extraordinary number of similarities. To his amazement, he begins to have feelings for this Spanish doctor.
‘Rifkin’s Festival’, Woody Allen’s fiftieth feature and his sixth collaboration with actor Wallace Shawn, is a conventional iteration of a noted filmmaker. To all Woody Allen aficionados, the romantic entanglements, fast-paced dialogue, personal tragedies and philosophical twists will be all too familiar. It’s a film that the successful director has delivered so many times: a colorful comedy full of neurotic characters, eccentric skits and existential discussions, but one that takes a clear step backwards from a plot point of view and is just a bit too concerned with providing film references. .
Woody Allen has been directing quite on autopilot in recent years and it also seems at ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ that he doesn’t want to explore new boundaries with this film. On the one hand, you want to partly condone this – if only for the fact that the 86-year-old filmmaker tirelessly continues to produce one film a year. But on the other hand, especially in view of his earlier work, the latest addition to his oeuvre is hardly groundbreaking. The difficult thing about ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ is the expectation with which you view the film. Are you hoping for him to match the level of ‘Annie Hall’ (1977) or have you come to the realization that he’s been making the same kind of movies for quite some time now? That one thinking pattern makes a world of difference.
For the real Woody Allen fans, the somewhat outdated elements will of course not be a problem, and for them ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ is a fine piece of entertainment. The film is relatively short for Allens (88 minutes), has an amusing cameo by Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Bastards”, 2009) and offers decent camera work by Vittorio Storaro (“Apocalypse Now”, 1979, and “The Last Emperor” 1987). ). This may be more than enough for them. And yet, for all his skill, this is definitely one of Allen’s lesser films. He explores fairly familiar territory here and after the umpteenth reference it has also been beautiful somewhere. In the extensive oeuvre of the bespectacled filmmaker, ‘Rifkin’s Festival’ comes somewhat like mustard after a meal.