Woody Allen's Latest, a Jewel of Auteur Cinema

Monica Straniero (November 25, 2019)
With A Rainy Day in New York, Woody Allen returns to his city, New York, making it the star of his new film that encapsulates all the themes of his oeuvre.

After Cafè Society (2016) and Wonder Wheel (2017), Woody Allen puts together an all-star cast in a film that marks the return to his origins.

A Rainy Day in New York, produced by Amazon Studios, which following the controversy that emerged with the MeToo movement, chose not to distribute in the US, will come to Italian theatres with Lucky Red starting November 28. Through young talents Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning, the movie accompanies us through the adventures and misadventures of a loving couple during a weekend in the Big Apple.

Chalamet plays Gatsby - a clear homage to the 1925 literary masterpiece by Francis Scott Fitzgerald - the offspring of a wealthy New York family. Gatsby belongs to a past era. He prefers Hollywood classics and the music of Gershwin, to anything contemporary. He wants to detach from the lifestyle dictated by his social status. Fanning plays Ashleigh, an aspiring reporter who writes for her college newspaper and has the opportunity to get her name out by interviewing independent film director Roland Pollard (played by Liev Schreiber). Chalamet and Fanning are joined by other known faces such as Jude Law, Selena Gomez, Diego Luna, and Rebecca Hall.

As previously mentioned, Allen is a seasoned director, who relies on mundane aspects of everyday life to create captivating narratives. His usual themes are present in this latest work: love stories, the search for life’s meaning, identity crises, and family dynamics. The director doesn’t spare a few pokes at the golden world of today’s film industry, short on ideas and overun by big egos and playboys. 

And let’s not forget the film’s other protagonist, New York itself, masterfully captured by the Italian master Vittorio Storaro. The city, as well as the weather, plays a key role in the development of the story. Allen carries us through the trees of Central Park, he tours us around the Met, and brings us inside the most exclusive locales such as the Carlyle Hotel or the duplex apartements of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The characters mix with these environments and seem to fuse with them, because the connection between character and place fills the life of this film. It makes it real and palpable. The rain hints at the different ways in which Gatsby and Ashleigh see life. Ashleigh thinks that the rain is sad, while Gatsby finds it romantic.

Woody Allen brings, as always, parts of himself to the screen, in an attempt to exorcise fears and psychoses by showing characters torn between making the choices imposed by social circumstance and convenience and following their dreams.

Yet, A Rainy Day in New York reveals to be much more optimistic than the majority of his works. “My intention was to make a positive film,” says Allen, “we are all fighting to find our place in this society. And my protagonist manages to do so in the end.” 

The result is a film that reveals itself to be a jewel of auteur cinema, an homage to the old romantic comedies of Hollywood’s golden age.