Sunday, July 24, 2016

Watched: Cafe Society

Set in L.A. in the 1930s! That alone made me want to watch Woody Allen's latest. I was curious to see how the city would look captured through the lens of an auteur who is known for his love of New York. My curiosity was rewarded for about half of the film, whence the narrative flies across the country and lands back in....New York.

Still, it's beguiling enough to see glimpses of L.A. in its "golden age" even in passing. (I recognized the Chinese theater and felt absurdly elated.) The photogenic California light has also been lovingly rendered, and used to impart the characters with the dreamy glow of being young and in love. Indeed, in love with two persons at the same time, as is the fate that befalls Vonnie once she meets the new L.A. emigre called Bobby who is the nephew of her boss.

Kristen Stewart- Vonnie- has come a long way since the days when she was stuck playing a vampire or something in an earlier film. Strangely expressionless and distant there (I could watch a mere 10 minutes), here she is all life- from her hypnotic green eyes to her intriguingly raspy voice. Well done, Stewart, I must say. She offset the almost-annoying facial tics and rushed speech of her second admirer, the naive Bobby (Jesse Eisenberg who will forever remain Mark Zuckerberg in my head) to a good degree.

So who is the other man Vonnie loves? He's married with children, much older, and is rich and influential in Hollywood. Ergo, complications abound. Due to which, Bobby runs back to New York. And this is where it struck me that the sense of place is central to these characters. Bobby loves New York. He can never be 'at home' anywhere but there, and thus is able to readily flee L.A. and heartbreak... even if going back home means he's had to grow up very quickly and transform himself into something altogether different from his L.A. self.
He flourishes there. His gangster brother Ben puts him in charge of their exotic nightclub, Les Tropiques. Bobby also manages to score a real hottie of a wife (Blake Lively in swoony attire and blond curls) and achieves happiness as a father. Even as you are laughing at the self-directed jokes of the very Jewish parents and cringing at the overt violence of the strangely affable crook Ben, you also know that something else is coming.

And one busy night at Les Tropiques, in sashays Vonnie. She has also transformed into something nearly unrecognizable from her early L.A. days with Bobby. This reunion then builds up to an ambiguous ending, with the last shot being a long, aching, genuinely intimate look at both Bobby's and Vonnie's faces.

Which led me back to the 'city as home' thread of thought I had earlier. I'm new in L.A. myself. But then I have a feeling I will always be 'new' somewhere or the other. We soul-nomads have that fate written for us when we are born- always new, always at home. When I am older and if I come back to L.A., I doubt I will experience the nearness to this city as Bobby does with his familiar knowledge of the dawn light in Central Park or the magic of craps games at midnight.

But, I console myself, I will also have other cities, other memories, other knowledge. After all, if nowhere is truly 'home' then that means that I have, in fact, infinite chances to fall in love with every where, all anew, for the rest of my life.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Been totally looking forward to seeing Cafe Society (big Woody Allen fan) but it hasn't even come to our town yet. I'm jealous...and want to see it even more now

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