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Woody Allen was given a rapturous reception as he hit the Venice Film Festival on Monday with his 50th film, the French-language thriller Coup de Chance which premieres Out Of Competition this evening.
The journalists in the press conference broke out into spontaneous applause as the 87-year-old director walked into the room.
“I have been very, very lucky. I have been lucky my whole life. I had two loving parents and good friends. I have a wonderful wife and marriage, two children… When I started making films all the people chose to emphasize what I was able to do well… they were generous,” Allen said of his life and career.
It is Allen’s first A-list festival appearance since premiering Café Society in Cannes in 2016, with the director withdrawing from the limelight amid repeated public sexual assault allegations by adoptive daughter Dylan Farrow, which he has denied.
Allen was last in Venice in 2007, with Cassandra’s Dream starring Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor, and prior to that was invited in 1995 to receive a Career Golden Lion, but did not attend. He made his Venice debut in 1983 with mockumentary Zelig.
Paris-set film Coup de Chance – starring Lou de Laâge, Valérie Lemercier, Melvil Poupaud and Niels Schneider – revolves around a model married model couple, whose perfect life is turned upside-down when the wife falls in love with an old classmate.
Allen said his decision to shoot in France and in French grew out of his life-long love of European cinema.
“When I was younger the films that were most impressive to us when we were all starting out and aiming to be filmmakers were European cinema, all the French films, Italian films, Swedish films. We all wanted to make films like Europeans.” he said.
“I was going to make this film with two Americans living in Paris and I thought to myself it’s my 50th film and I love Paris so much that I’ll make it in French. I don’t speak French but that didn’t bother me because all the actors spoke English… I had a wonderful time and then felt I was a genuine European filmmaker.”
Allen said he had not found it difficult to direct a cast speaking a language that he did not understand.
“If you watch a Japanese film, you can tell if the acting is good, realistic and natural or if it’s dramatic and silly, or too exaggerated. The same thing here, I could tell by the body language and the emotion of the actors without understanding the language, when they were being realistic, and they weren’t.
“I wrote the words but if they made them their own words, which was fine, and they did whatever they felt like, and I couldn’t understand the gist of it, I would ask my assistant. The cast read the scenario and understood it. It was out of my hands. They’re first-rate actors and actresses. They did it and I didn’t have to direct them much. It was not difficult.”
Quizzed on whether he would consider shooting films in other European languages, Allen said it was not out of the question.
“Sometimes, I get a phone call from someone in a different country saying we will finance your film if you make in Icelandic, or some other language. If I have an idea that is good, then I might consider it. I had such nice experience in France it’s something I would definitely consider,” he said.
The director said he would jump at the chance to shoot against the backdrop of his native New York.
“I have a very good idea for New York and if some guy steps out of the shadows and says, ‘I’ll finance your film in New York’ and they obey all my terrible restrictions, read the script, give me the money and then go away, I’ll make a film in New York,” he joked.
The director, was was joined at the press conference by Allen was joined on stage by actresses de Laâge and Lemercier, revealed he had always preferred writing parts for women rather than men.
‘Twenty or thirty years ago I was playing the parts that I wrote, so I wrote for myself, but I was always able to write better, more interesting parts for women… I don’t know why, maybe because the writers and filmmakers who influenced me most were Ingmar Bergman and Tennessee Williams and these people wrote for women,” he explained.
In relation to his love of Bergman, Allen was also quizzed about the theme of death that crops up in his new film.
“I don’t think there’s anything you can do about it. It’s a bad deal. You’re stuck with it,” he quipped in typical deadpan mode.
“At the end of this movie, we left on the screen the under title, ‘Don’t think about it too much’. That is all you can really do: not think about it too much because there is really no way out. There’s no way out through science, through philosophy, through comedy… it’s a bad deal. You just have to not think about it… distract yourself.”