Film review: Cassandra’s Dream

Cassandra’s Dream
2007
Iberville Productions, Virtual Studios, Wild Bunch

STARRING Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell, Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins, Tom Wilkinson
WRITTEN BY Woody Allen
PRODUCED BY Letty Aronson
DIRECTED BY Woody Allen

SHOT BY Vilmos Zsigmond
EDITED BY Alisa Lepselter
MUSIC BY Philip Glass
DISTRIBUTED BY The Weinstein Company, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Optimum Releasing

Screened 2007-12-19

“The 60-1 Shot”

Targets: Londoner Brothers Ian (McGregor) and Terry (Farrell).  Ian, the ambitious California Dreamer, grouchily manages his father’s restaurant while keeping one eye open for any get-rick-quick scheme he can see, while Terry, the well-to-do fuck-up gambler, keeps busy by balancing his vices between working hours at his high-end auto body.  The pecuniary stars align when three things happen: Ian falls in love with a woman whom he coaxes into believing he is rich, Terry’s gambling debts take on gigantic and threatening proportions, and filial benefactor Uncle Howard (Wilkinson) comes to town with a problem of his own.  Howard’s dilemma takes precedence since its resolution can feasibly solve the problems of the brothers…and that resolution happens to involve the immediate and complete silencing of a potentially explosive witness in the case against Uncle Howard.  Howard’s rewards at the completion of the task forthcoming, Ian and Terry embark upon a moral journey they were in no position to take.

Many of Allen’s works tend to come off like psychological essays, similar to Allen’s adored Dostoevsky, especially when his characters willingly discuss the subtextual themes with one another – that’s a bit trying (but at least we have a new good Allen movie!).  Like Crimes & Misdemeanors and Match Point, Allen again tackles the ramifications of murder committed by the civilized man.  What differentiates this essay?  This time it’s two brothers.  Yes, yes.  Allenphile as I am, I enjoyed the film very much, but for those who don’t jump at each of Allen’s endeavors and probably only saw Match Point in the past decade will in all likelihood be left upset.  Come to think of it, the film would really be best for those who don’t know that it’s an Allen film.  Dream’s tone is quite similar to Point’s, to the extent that certain scenes and structural choices produce identical feelings in the viewer.  But whereas Point and Misdemeanors feel more like explorations, Dream feels more complete, more like a cautionary tale (Allen’s intent was a Greek tragedy, after all).  The story is inexorably drawn to its dark end, accompanied by Phillip Glass’s foreboding score.  Dream is a no-nonsense, multifaceted look at society, ambition, dreams and modern scruples.  Tragic tales like this are useful because they force us to ask ourselves how much our ‘dreams’ are really worth and why they are even important to us.

written by David Ashley

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