Saturday, 6 August 2005

Sweet and Lowdown (1999) - ickleReview (DVD)

Woody Allen movie about the fictional second best jazz guitarist in the world, Emmet Ray (Sean Penn). Talking heads in the documentary style recount various infamous episodes from the musician's life, very little about which is known. It's the 1930s and Emmet is a heavy drinking and unreliable performer, who either turns up tight or late or not at all. One day he meets a mute girl, Hattie (beautifully played by Samantha Morton), whom he keeps with him for a time, indulging her with presents, before suddenly walking out on her. We later learn that he marries an amateur writer, Blanche (Uma Thurman), but still refuses to express his feelings in any other way than through his music. He idolizes the gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt, but makes only a few recordings because he's afrait that when he does, other musician's will be able to steal his stuff.

Penn plays Ray as petulant, egotistical and slightly hammy, with the quickjerky movements of an undercranked film. Morton is adorable as the simple mute, somehow managing to speak without words. Allen's pencilled sketches are plausible within the Hollywood biopic genre, but the whole thing has a Miramax give-me-an-Oscar feel about it without any of the genuine polish of the big studios.

Nugget: an entertaining film, nevertheless, with a superb soundtrack and plausible miming by Penn at the guitar.

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