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Woody Allen’s Cafe Society to push Cannes fest into motion and magic

  • Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: May 11, 2016 14:21 IST
Cafe Society by Woody Allen is a panoramic tale of 1930s New York and Hollywood. (Allen_instagram/instagram)

The 69th edition of the Cannes film festival will open later on May 11 with the classic Woody Allen touch -- Cafe Society. A panoramic tale of 1930s New York and Hollywood with a kaleidoscopic cast of characters that range from movie stars to millionaires, playboys to professors and working girls to wise guys.

The film’s broad scope was integral from the start, said Allen in the production notes. “When I wrote the script, I structured it like a novel. As in a book, you stop for a little while in this film and see a scene with the protagonist with his girlfriend, a scene with his parents, followed by a scene with his sister or gangster brother, a scene with Hollywood stars and wheeler-dealers and then the Café Society with politicians, debutantes, playboys and the people cheating on their wives or shooting their husbands. To me it was always a story not of one person but of everybody.

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Much like a novel, the movie’s story has a sutradar, and Allen is that narrator.

“Within the sweep of the movie is the story of Bobby Dorfman, a Bronx boy whose ambitions take him to Hollywood and back again to New York. “Bobby’s love story is the armature that the film is hung on, but all these other characters make up the atmosphere and fabric of the story itself.”

Much like a novel, the movie’s story has a sutradar, and Allen is that narrator. “I put myself in because I knew exactly how I wanted the words to be inflected” he averred… “I figured that since I wrote the book, it would be like I was reading from my novel.”

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Beyond all this, Cafe Society is a story of socialites, aristocrats, artists and celebrities who gathered in fashionable cafes and restaurants in New York, Paris and London in the late 19th and early 20th century.

The term, Cafe Society, gained popularity in the New York of the 1930s when prohibition ended and tabloid journalism first appeared -- focussing on the hoi-poloi who frequented the city’s cafes.

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Cafe Society is a story of socialites, aristocrats, artists and celebrities who gathered in fashionable cafes and restaurants in New York, Paris and London in the late 19th and early 20th century.

“There were dozens of dazzling clubs in New York City at the time, including some with 50-piece

Orchestras,” explained Allen, who grew up there. “Every night the glitterati donned tuxedoes and gowns and made the circuit from Greenwich Village jazz spots to

legendary midtown venues like El Morocco, to 142nd Street in Harlem, site of the Cotton Club. That era has always fascinated me.

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“It was one of the most exciting times in the history of New York, with tremendous theatre life, café life, and restaurants. Up and down the line, wherever you were, the whole island was jumping with nighttime sophisticated activities,” added Allen.

However, Allen uses the era to tell us a very intimate story of a family saga of a man who owns a jewellery shop, and his grown up children, one of whom becomes a gangster.

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And Cafe Society will unfold through a stellar cast of Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll and Ken Stott among others.

Here’s a rundown of key events during the first week of the 69th Cannes Film Festival, which opens Wednesday, May 11.

Wednesday, May 11

- Opening Ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival hosted by Laurent Lafitte

- Screening of “Café Society” by Woody Allen (Out of Competition - opening film)

Thursday, May 12

- Screening of Staying Vertical by Alain Guiraudie (In Competition)

- Screening of Sieranevada by Cristi Puiu (In Competition)

- Screening of Money Monster by Jodie Foster (Out of Competition)

- Opening of the Un Certain Regard selection with Clash by Mohamed Diab

- Opening of Directors’ Fortnight with Sweet Dreams by Marco Bellocchio

- Golden Coach prize giving, won by Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki

- Screening of Masculin Féminin by Jean-Luc Godard (Cannes Classics)

- Screening of Valmont by Milos Forman (Cannes Classics)

Friday, May 13

- Screening of Slack Bay by Bruno Dumont (In Competition)

- Screening of I, Daniel Blake by Ken Loach (In Competition)

- Screening of Train to Busan by Yeon Sang-Ho (Out of Competition)

- Screening of Exile by Rithy Panh (Special Screenings)

- Screening of The Dancer by Stéphanie DiGiusto (Un Certain Regard)

- Screening of After Love by Joachim Lafosse (Directors’ Fortnight)

Saturday, May 14

- Screening of The Handmaiden by Park Chan-Wook (In Competition)

- Screening of Toni Erdmann by Maren Ade (In Competition)

- Screening of The BFG by Steven Spielberg (Out of Competition)

- Screening of Wrong Elements by Jonathan Littell (Special Screenings)

- Screening of Like Crazy by Paolo Virzi (Directors’ Fortnight)

- Screening of A Man and a Woman by Claude Lelouch (Cannes Classics)

Sunday, May 15

- Screening of From the Land of the Moon by Nicole Garcia (In Competition)

- Screening of American Honey by Andrea Arnold (In Competition)

- Screening of The Nice Guys by Shane Black (Out of Competition)

- Screening of Tour de France by Rachid Djaïdani (Directors’ Fortnight)

With inputs from AFP

(Gautaman Bhaskaran is covering the Cannes Film Festival.)

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