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Woody Allen toys with death in latest movie

15 May 2015, 20:43

Cannes - Kant and killing might seem an unusual cinematic mix. Unless, of course, it's in a Woody Allen film.

The prolific director has often thrown philosophy into his wry comedies, and he won new respect with his 2005 murder thriller "Match Point".

Also read: Coen brothers take swipe at Netflix

His latest movie, "Irrational Man", premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, mixes both elements in a story that, while of a familiar Allen mould, showcases the formidable acting talents of Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone.

The film follows a cynical, world-weary philosophy professor, Abe (Phoenix), who takes up a teaching post in a small campus town and who in a Woody Allen touchstone proves irresistible to a sassy and smart female student, Jill (Stone).

While Abe quotes Immanuel Kant and Soren Kierkegaard, he is too jaded to believe the philosophers' ideas mean anything until he decides to murder a judge he doesn't know as a test of his unorthodox morality.

The plotting of the crime re-invigourates Abe and gives him a new taste for life. But, as in "Match Point", events cascade towards potential disaster.

Allen told a media conference after the press screening of "Irrational Man" that while the Abe character appeared to be acting in a crazy way, his decisions were not all that unusual.

"I do think that there are turning points in your life when you realise something momentous can happen if you make the choice," he said.

"It's not so irrational given the comparisons with the choices we all make in life."

"Irrational Man" was shown out of competition at Cannes. Although Allen has come a dozen times to the Riviera festival to present films, he refuses to have them vie for its top Palme d'Or prize. Making them is reward enough, he has said.

On death and movies

At 79, a bit hard of hearing and apparently having trouble seeing the journalists before him, Allen was inevitably questioned about his own views on death and existence, and where film-making fit into it all.

The answer was characteristically nihilistic, but he admitted that making cinema was necessary for him to find a semblance of meaning to life.

"The bottom line is that life has its own agenda and it runs right over you while you're prattling," he said.

Life, he said, "has no meaning: you're living in a random universe, and you're leading a meaningless life and everything you've created in your life or do is going to vanish.

"And the Earth will vanish. And the Sun will burn out. And the universe will be gone. And it's over."

Allen said his conclusion to such a grim outlook was that artists such as himself needed to provide "distraction".

"You can distract people and making movies is a wonderful distraction."



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