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SWEET AND LOWDOWN

Director: Woody Allen

95 minutes| U.S.A.| 1999| Colour| Dolby Digital Mono| 35mm


This is one of Allen’s most unusual, poignant films. Cast in the mock documentary style of Zelig and set in the 1930s, it recounts the career of a mythical jazz guitarist, Emmett Ray (Sean Penn), who aspires to the greatness of Django Reinhardt. Witnesses recall some amusing highlights, including his disastrous stage entrance on a cardboard moonbeam, but the heart of the film is his relationship with a mute laundress (Samantha Morton) and his inability to cope with her devotion: all his feelings go into his music. Everything builds to two devastating moments: a brief reunion between them, which might not be what it seems (has she told him the truth?); and a final aerial shot gently surveying the wreckage that is emotional as well as physical. There is sturdy support from Uma Thurman and Anthony LaPaglia, but it is the performances of Penn and Morton that linger in the mind: they are simply superb.

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