Directed by: Woody Allen, Senkichi Taniguchi | 80 minutes | action, comedy | Actors: Tatsuya Mihashi, Akiko Wakabayashi, Mie Hama, Woody Allen, Tadao Nakamaru, Susumu Kurobe, Sachio Sakai, Eisei Amamoto, Tetsu Nakamura, Osman Yusuf, John Sebastian, Will Yanovsky
For his first film, Woody Allen had a brilliant idea: take a campy, Japanese film in the James Bond style and mix up the original with English dialogue. This dialogue can now deviate from what the images communicate and thus create attractive humor. It’s the type of approach that can make for a hilarious cult hit. However, “Tiger Lily” turns out to have turned out to be a surprisingly funny job.
The movie starts with the original Japanese movie with the original dialogue still intact. Subtitles are not necessary, because the images of this action scene say enough. In a living room a fight breaks out between the good and the bad, and this piece of film is particularly funny because of the artificial fighting moments and the character that is clearly based on Hollywood. But then the movie ends and we see Woody Allen sitting at a table with a journalist who asks him about his project. He explains himself and a little later we are watching the same movie, but with English dialogue.
It immediately becomes a lot less fun. Every now and then you will have to smile, but most of the time the film is quite soporific, especially when we are treated to a performance by the then popular rock band “The Lovin ‘Spoonful”. These inserted segments take way too long and don’t add anything. Only after more than twenty minutes is the (new) relationship between image and sound played in an interesting way when the main character proclaims: “This is the obligatory scene in which the director and his wife pass by”, after which we see a man and see woman walking through the image, and the man exclaiming, “Egoist!” The scene here is also amusing, when his female companion says she wants to tear the man’s clothes off, and then, when he leans over to kiss her, quickly holds binoculars in front of her eyes to check out the surroundings. These kinds of scenes provide nice contrasts between image and dialogue and play with the expectations of the viewer in an interesting way. For a moment you think that Allen has the right tone, when something funny soon takes place again. The villain walks on a boat past a couple of cabins, where all kinds of hookers are ready for him, all saying goodbye to him. At the latter he stops and suddenly shouts: “Mom!”. The scene ends when he suddenly knocks her out. “She takes a good punch” is the dry commentary.
For example, there are still some nice finds, or very silly ones that also work on the laughing muscles due to their weakness. As in the case of our hero’s response to the villain’s name, Anthony Wong, “Two Wongs don’t make a Wight”. Very wrong and silly, but because of that funny. But the hilarity does not last longer than fifteen minutes. Too often people stay close to the images or try too much to be funny with accents or silly laughter. The whole quest for the egg salad is quite fun and provides mild humor here and there, but the film cannot be called really successful.
Allen’s exciting promise before the beginning of the “real” film that we will see images that say something completely different than the dialogue is unfortunately not fulfilled enough. Too often literal jokes and characters are used, and too little humor due to “clashes” between image and sound. It is nice when the film is stopped by Allen at various times. Halfway through the film, the journalist asks, for example, if Allen cannot explain the chaotic story for the viewer: “No”, he says curtly, and the film continues. And by the end of the movie, everything is casually put on pause. Initially because there is a hair on the lens that the operator has to remove, so that we see a hand and arm appear in the picture, but it ends in a depiction of shadow beasts in front of the projector, and a little later in an intimate kiss scene between the operator and his girlfriend. Absurd, but at least it brings some life back into the brewery. Something that, despite the discussed scenes, there is a chronic lack of in this film.