-Runtime: 98 minutes

-Released on September 22, 2010 (limited)

-Production Company: Mediapro (presents), Versátil Cinema (presents) Gravier Productions

-Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

-Rated R

-Budget: $22 million [1]

-Gross: $3.2 million USA [1], $31 million foreign [8]

-Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1

"You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" Screening Companion

-No one has done more in his time. No director is more recognizable. No movie-maker has been as much of a cultural figure, so beloved and then such a figure of suspicion. But time has passed and the furore over Mia Farrow and Soon-Yi Previn has faded, it seems to me, like some of his own movies. [5]

 

-All too soon, that excitement vanished. Maybe it's just that Allen was a pre-eminent figure of the 1970s and 80s who lived long enough to see his moment change. How does anyone doing comedy stay in touch with what makes each new generation laugh over five decades? Preston Sturges had the trick for maybe six years. Billy Wilder was knockout funny for less than 10, but he'd always had a sour side, as witness Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard. A lot of funny fellows nurse a dark view of life. [5]

 

-So Allen made too many films where he didn't seem to deliver full attention or concentration. If a guy his age keeps making films, does it hide some failure to deliver a masterpiece? His habit of making movies is clear, but does he need it? Never mind. At 75 and more, a director deserves to be judged on his best work. [5]

 

-Perhaps it is time, in 2011, to adjust our expectation: not lower, but sideways. It's time to stop moaning that he isn't the director he once was, or that we aren't the people we once were. This new Allen film has some broad comedy and some slightly clunky characterisation: his concept of Britishness is very much that of an outsider of a certain age, and the film-maker has a weird knack of painting a brownstone hue on the London streets. Yet the film has an elegant lightness and detachment: a literary feel, like a short story or a novella. Maybe if Tolstoy's every short story from his own late period had been fanatically compared to War and Peace or Anna Karenina by a despairing ex-fanbase, then that too would have been a dispiriting cultural spectacle. [6]

 

-This remarkable film-maker isn't finished yet; even his lesser works have something to say, and are far, far superior to an awful lot of stuff in the multiplexes. It has become a critical truism to wonder if the great man should stop making so many films – how about spending three or four years on one really good one? I have, in fact, said this myself. But perhaps fluency and facility are just part of Allen's mojo – part of what preserves his creative muscle-tone. [6]

 

-So instead of the self-defeating business of hoping against hope that Allen's latest will be a return to form, how about thinking of each new film as a short story? You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Whatever Works,Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Match Point, Melinda and Melinda, The Curse of The Jade Scorpion: it's a growing anthology of bittersweet, gently ruminative jeux d'ésprit to be reflected upon in a calmer, less judgmental spirit. A new Allen film may not be the sensational news it was. But it is always good news. [6]

 

-Once again as critics and audiences were about to give up on Woody Allen, he drops on the world Midnight in Paris, his most successful film ever. [WAW]

Plot Origins

 

-Woody Allen: "I was interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t. I’ve known people who have put their faith in religion and in fortune tellers. So it occurred to me that that was a good character for a movie: a woman who everything had failed for her, and all of a sudden, it turned out that a woman telling her fortune was helping her. The problem is, eventually, she’s in for a rude awakening." [3]

 

-Woody Allen: "You don’t gain any wisdom as the years go by. You fall apart, is what happens. People try and put a nice varnish on it, and say, well, you mellow. You come to understand life and accept things. But you’d trade all of that for being 35 again. I’ve experienced that thing where you wake up in the middle of the night and you start to think about your own mortality and envision it, and it gives you a little shiver. That’s what happens to Anthony Hopkins at the beginning of the movie, and from then on in, he did not want to hear from his more realistic wife, “Oh, you can’t keep doing that — you’re not young anymore.” Yes, she’s right, but nobody wants to hear that." [3]

 

-Yes, people in the movie are greedy and unhappy. But the interesting piece is the reason why each person is greedy; and the admirable thing about Allen's movies over the last few years has been his willingness to think openly about issues that are clearly his own (inter-generational romance in Whatever Works and pending mortality in this latest) on a public stage. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is a movie about the anxious way in which an old man faces death. More, it's about the misguided ways in which we all deal with the fact that one day, as the writer Roy in the movie says, we're going to meet the "tall dark stranger" who is not a lover but the grim reaper. [7]

 

-Each character in the movie has some inkling that he's going to die and makes a crooked sprint away from the idea. They shoot in different trajectories like sparks from the firecracker; all are nuts but they're engaged in very human responses to mortality. If people in the movie...are mean, it's because people tend to get mean when they have even an non-conscious feeling that their lives are ending. [7]

The Interiors Connection

 

Woody Allen: This film was an attempt to deal with the same subject but to deal with it in a more comic way then Interiors but the subject matter is still the same thing. It’s still about the inability of people to relate to one another, people needing some kind of certainty in life, people deluding themselves into some sense that life has got some purpose or that there’s some extra meaning to life when in fact it’s a meaningless experience. In the end, even faith in anything at all is better than no faith at all and these are all the same subjects as Interiors but here the characters play them with more humor. [9]

 

Woody continues: They’re still serious but it’s played with more humor and I was reminded of years ago when I was on television with Billy Graham and I was taking this bleak outlook position and Billy Graham was saying to me that even if I was right and he was wrong and there was no meaning to life and it was a bleak experience and there was no God and no afterlife or no hope or anything, that he would still have a better life than me because he believed differently. Even if he was a hundred percent wrong, our lives would both be completed and I would’ve had a miserable life wallowing in a bleak outlook and he would have had a wonderful life confident that there was more. [9]

 

Woody continues: So that was one of the main themes of this picture that someone like Gemma Jones could be diluted as I felt Billy Graham was diluted and that she would have a better life than someone like Josh who is more scientific minded and has a more realistic view of life but was going to have the more miserable life. [9]

Trivia

 

-This was the first movie Allen made without Charles H. Joffe. Joffe, along with his partner Jack Rollins, had managed Allen as a stand-up comic and gotten him a job as a writer on What’s New Pussycat. When Allen wanted to start making his own movies, Joffe and Rollins teamed up to produce Take the Money and Run. They then produced every single subsequent Allen movie, and picked up the Academy Award for Annie Hall when it won Best Picture. Joffe died in 2008, but Rollins is still alive and working. [2]

 

-Allen had intended to film this in San Francisco, but it would’ve been too expensive. London just happened to be the cheapest place to film at the time. [2]

 

-Despite Allen’s claim that he simply couldn’t afford to film anywhere other than London, this movie actually has the biggest budget ($22 million) of any of his films since The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. [2]

 

-Brazilian actress Monique Alfradique auditioned for the film, but didn't get the part. [1]

 

-Nicole Kidman was cast in the lead but dropped out to take a role in Rabbit Hole. Lucy Punch would later accept the role. [1] Food-for-thought: Imagine if Woody directed a film like Rabbit Hole. It might not be his style of film, but critics would have completely lost it.

 

-Before Lucy Punch replaced Nicole Kidman, Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones, Black Book, Valkyrie, Repo Men) was considered to replace her. [1]

 

-Anna Friel (Iris) filmed her role in a day. [1]

 

-Celia Imrie also filmed her role in a day, and said that she accepted the part even though it was small because Woody Allen was such a "legend". Her scenes with Anthony Hopkins, however, never made it into the final cut. [1]

-This is only Freida Pinto’s second ever movie after her breakout role in Slumdog Millionaire. [2]

 

-This movie was cast in the Spring of 2009, right after Penelope Cruz won an Oscar, but before Whatever Works had been released. That might help explain the inexplicably A-list calibre of the cast. [2]

 

-The line that Roy uses to court Sally ("So much depends on a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens") is actually a poem by William Carlos Williams. It's unclear whether Sally's character knew that or whether Roy stole it for himself (setting up a bit of foreshadowing). [1]

 

-In some territories such as Australia, this Woody Allen film was theatrically released after both Midnight in Paris (2011) and To Rome with Love (2012) which were both made after You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010). [1]

 

-Cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond (Cassandra's Dream, The Black Dahlia, Melinda and Melinda, Jersey Girl, Maverick, The Deer Hunter, Close Encounters of the Thrid Kind, The Long Goodbye, Deliverance, McCabe & Mrs. Miller). Along with László Kovács, a fellow student who fled Hungary in 1956, Zsigmond rose to prominence in the 1970s. He is known for his use of natural light and vivid use of color on features such as The Long Goodbye (1973) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). [1]

 

-Funded by Mediapro, the same Spanish company that financed the majority of Vicky Cristina Barcelona. [2]

 

-The narrator, Zak Orth, also narrated Vicky Christina Barcelona.

 

Critical Reception

 

Justin Chang for Variety wrote: "By now it's clear Woody Allen doesn't much believe in God, destiny or the notion that life has any larger meaning, a message he tubthumps to increasingly feeble and unpersuasive effect in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger."

 

John Harti for the Seattle Times wrote: "It's as if the dour Interiors had been reworked by a more forgiving, generous filmmaker who wants to move beyond stereotypes and discover what he calls the "beautiful and ironic" aspects of life."

 

-A. O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: "Not that there’s much sound and fury here, though there are a few bouts of yelling and screaming, and potentially tragic situations played with an unlikely and not unwelcome buoyancy. The metaphysical pessimism that constitutes Mr. Allen’s annual greeting-card message to the human race — just in case we needed reminding that our existence is meaningless — is served up in “Tall Dark Stranger” with a wry shrug and an amusing flurry of coincidences, reversals and semi-surprises. There are hints of farce, droplets of melodrama, a few dangling loose ends and an overall mood of sloppy, tolerant cynicism. At this point in his career — 40 features in about as many years — Mr. Allen has both mastered his craft and grown indifferent to it. Does he take any pleasure in making these movies? Does he expect the audience to take any? It’s hard to say, since he seems to make films, and we seem to watch them (at least those of us who still do), more through force of habit than because of any great inspiration or conviction. Given the nonexistence of any controlling moral order in the universe, what else can we do? And what else would we want him to do?"

 

-David Jenkins for Time Out wrote: "Dutifully fulfilling his informal pledge to deliver a film a year, Woody Allen’s lacklustre latest is a profoundly bitter think piece which views life as a succession of chronic disappointments, upsets and missed opportunities. Ironically for someone as eloquent as Allen, the main problem isn’t the substance of what he says, it’s the artless and ham-fisted way he says it."

 

-Betsy Sharkey for the Los Angles Times wrote: "This kinder, gentler Allen is still clever, still amusing, and the film itself is a confection tempting enough to consider a taste. Yet there is that empty-calorie letdown after it's over. Maybe it's time to book another trip to Spain."

 

-Mike LaSalle for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "It's a meandering and rather aimless movie that would be considered trite if made by another filmmaker, and yet it has such a family resemblance to other, better Woody Allen movies that it's easy to stick with it and enjoy it."

 

Roger Ebert for the Chicago Sun-Times wrote: "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger is every frame a Woody Allen film, but it isn't very much more."

 

-David Denby for The New Yorker wrote: "Crabby as “Tall Dark Stranger” is, however, it’s admirably staged and edited, with several sequences that are breathtaking, especially a prolonged shot in which Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, and Gemma Jones tear at one another, passing in and out of a living room, their voices interwoven like the phrases of an agitated piece of music. The shot has the sustained intensity and the compositional intricacy of Robert Altman’s best work."

 

-Every Woody Allen Movie web site critic wrote, "As Woody Allen continues to repeat himself, I find it harder and harder to avoid doing the same. What can I possibly say about You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger that I haven’t already said about Scoop,Melinda and Melinda or Anything Else? It’s yet another dated, fitfully amusing comedy-drama with familiar themes, characters and stories...The movie’s narrator begins and ends by sharing one of the most over-used Shakespeare quotes — “a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” That’s a quote much more applicable to Vicky Cristina Barcelona. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, on the other hand, might signify nothing, but it is sorely lacking in both sound and fury." [2]

 

-Woody Allen Pages web site critic wrote: "A second flop in a row, and the end of an under-performing decade, it was tough going to remain a Woody Allen fan at this time. This meandering fable could well have ended his career, in particular in the US. Many countries didn’t even bother to show it. Which all helped to make the success of his next film even sweeter." [4]

 

-Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter described it as “A serviceable Woody Allen comedy that trifles with its characters rather than engaging with them.”

 

-Nerve.com ranked You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger #32 out of 33 Woody Allen films. "This is a middling picture that, frankly, would be a hell of a lot better if it hadn't been made by Woody Allen. (You try to treat every film as its own entity, but with Woody's constant self-plagiarizing it's almost impossible.) Stranger has its moments of complexity, but for the most part it's a dull walkthrough of themes — infidelity, fear of commitment, fear of loneliness, career ambition — that Allen has dealt with continually, and almost always in better works." [10]

 

-Mark Asch at The L Magazine named it his 10th best film of 2010

 

-46% Rotten Tomatoes rating

 

[1] - imdb.com

[2] - www.EveryWoodyAllenMovie.com

[3] - http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/movies/15woody.html?_r=0

[4] - www.WoodyAllenPages.com

[5] - http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/mar/10/woody-allen-david-thomson

[6] - http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2011/jan/03/critic-choice-woody-allen-new-film

[7] - http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-literary-mind/201010/woody-allens-you-will-meet-tall-dark-stranger-good-movie-about-death

[8] - http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=talldarkstranger.htm

[9] - http://thefilmstage.com/features/interview-woody-allen-discusses-you-will-meet-a-tall-dark-stranger/

[10] - http://www.nerve.com/entertainment/ranked/ranked-woody-allen-films-from-worst-to-best?page=2