Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling books as characters, real and fictional, come back to haunt him.
CW Briggs is a veteran insurance investigator, with many successes. Betty Ann Fitzgerald is a new employee in the company he works for, with the task of reorganizing the office. They don't like each other - or at least that's what they think. During a night out with the rest of the office employees, they go to watch Voltan, a magician who secretly hypnotizes both of them, in order to use them for his dirty schemes. The next evening already, Briggs makes his first robbery, and when he wakes up in the morning he has no memory of it. Things get really complicated when he starts investigating the case. Will he be able to uncover... himself? Written by
Chris Makrozahopoulos <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A delight. Woody Allen in his classical style, as good as ever.
I paraphrase from memory from Allen's speech at the 2001 Oscars: `When the Academy called me, I was surprised - as you know, my movie, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion', hadn't been nominated for anything. I thought maybe they'd called to apologise.' At the time, I thought this was just another self-deprecating joke. And I'm sure it was. But having seen the film, I'm starting to think he had a point, or at least, as much of a point as anyone who complains about being snubbed at the Oscars ever has.
In three of the categories which are ludicrously called technical' - art direction, cinematography costume design - Allen's picture had as much right to be included among the nominees as half of those that WERE included; it also had an original screenplay that had far more going for it than that of "Amelie" or "Monster's Ball" and it was at the very least above the AVERAGE quality of the films competing for the Best Picture award.
Really - it's one of Allen's better films, and I don't see how anyone could reasonably think otherwise. The early, pure comedies which some people supposedly still long for ("Take the Money and Run", "Sleeper") weren't actually any funnier; the obvious classics (like "Manhattan") weren't better structured, or cleverer, or more pointed. (Granted, "Manhattan", "Zelig" et al. had a divine spark which isn't, perhaps, to be found here, but you can't expect to be zapped by a divine spark every day of the week.) It's an old-time romantic comedy, set in the 1940s, which could ONLY be set in the 1940s (and Allen has a magic touch when it comes to 20th Century period pieces; don't ask me to explain it), in which several clichés - a contrived and unlikely plot involving (in this instance) hypnotism, a male lead decades older than the female lead, an odd couple who start by loathing each other and end up in love - are explained, given surprising depth, and pressed into serving new functions. When Briggs and Fitzgerald are arbitrarily HYPNOTISED into falling in love, it's like a comment on the absurdity of the way love strikes in romantic comedies ... but the story never fails to work perfectly when taken straight, too. All of Allen's implied second-order comments serve, in the end, to enrich the first-order story. It's as if he decided to show us that fiction crafted to debunk the conventions of other works of fiction CAN actually be good in its own right, when it's done by a true artist rather than some wanker with a theoretical axe to grind. The result: "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion" is diverting, pleasurable, and satisfying as not one film in a hundred succeeds in being.
Place this alongside "Sweet and Lowdown" and you'll wonder how the rumour that Woody Allen's powers are declining ever got started. I blame the modern addiction to novelty. Allen has been making movies for a while now, and even though his films today are no more derivative than they've ever been (less so, in fact), a Woody Allen picture is no longer a new KIND of thing. The same people who would argue that Haydn's 102nd symphony couldn't possibly be as good as his 80th because the latter happened to have been written and performed first (and there are people who WOULD argue this, the instant it became fashionable to do so), will tell you that "Curse of the Jade Scorpion" is clearly inferior to, say, "The Purple Rose of Cairo", because it's in the same style and vein, and was made later. Put like that, the view sounds silly. And indeed it is.
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