Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 1999. Sweetland Films, Magnolia Productions. Screenplay by Woody Allen. Cinematography by Fei Zhao. Produced by Jean Doumanian. Production Design by Santo Loquasto. Costume Design by Laura Bauer. Film Editing by Alisa Lepselter. Academy Awards 1999. Golden Globe Awards 1999. Toronto International Film Festival 1999.
Woody Allen’s best film since Mighty Aphrodite is this sweet fictional documentary about the second greatest jazz guitarist who ever lived. Living in the shadow of his hero Django Reinhardt, jazz guitarist Sean Penn tries to make good but finds himself beset by his inability to grow up, his lack of true committed feelings for any of his women, and his unwillingness to take his talent seriously. In comes a meek and shy mute (Samantha Morton in a remarkable performance) who pitiably loves him and accompanies him on the road, and a Dietrich-like siren (Uma Thurman) upon whom Penn develops a fixation. Zhao Fei’s cinematography is beautiful, and the music is wonderful in this small but very memorable little piece of work from a master comedian.