Sweet and Lowdown

The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: Woody Allen

REVIEWED: 12-28-99

After demonstrating in Celebrity how out of touch he was with contemporary tabloid culture, Woody Allen retreats to the 1930s in his 28th feature film. Sweet and Lowdown is among the director's most negligible efforts in what has become the weakest act in a brilliant career. Allen recycles one of the conceits of Zelig in fashioning a mockumentary portrait of Emmet Ray, a fictional jazz guitarist who made beautiful music and mistreated everyone around him. Sean Penn gives his all as the irascible scuzz, and he's ably supported by Samantha Morton and Uma Thurman as the contrary women he beds, a mute laundress and a chattily pretentious writer. New to the director's artistic team, Chinese cinematographer Zhao Fei swabs the film in luscious lemony tones. But the familiar whiff of late-Woody self-justification wafts over the whole affair, with Emmet claiming that a true artist can't worry about who gets hurt along his way. The waiflike Morton supplies the film's one truly magical scene. Down on her hands and knees to fix a flat tire -- on Emmet's car -- she is suddenly transfixed as he lazily spins a tune on the guitar. For a minute, you can understand how Emmet's artistry takes her to a faraway place. It's only one minute, though, and the underwritten, underpopulated Sweet and Lowdown has 94 more to fill.

--Scott Heller

Other Films by Woody Allen
Bullets Over Broadway
Celebrity
Deconstructing Harry
Everyone Says I Love You
Mighty Aphrodite

Film Vault Suggested Links
The Apartment
Slums of Beverly Hills
Dream With The Fishes

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