Sweet and Lowdown; Tragicomedy, USA, 1999; D: Woody Allen, S: Sean Penn, Samantha Morton, Anthony LaPaglia, Uma Thurman
In the 1930s, there lived Emmet Ray, a virtuoso musician who was, according to some, the 2nd best guitarist in the World, right behind Django Reignhart. But he was a kleptomaniac and an alcoholic, which is why he was often late for his own performance in various clubs. He met the mute Hattie who became his lover. After an unsuccessful attempt to make it through in Hollywood, he had financial problems and left Hattie. He married the eccentric Blanche, but she cheated on him which is why he started mourning after Hattie and suddenly disappeared.
Woody Allen wasn't in best shape at the beginning of the 90s, but eventually still managed to direct a few excellent films, like "Mighty Aphrodite", "Everyone Says I Love You" and "Deconstructing Harry". Even his nostalgic humorous drama "Sweet and Lowdown" was exceptionally praised, and it is truly fun and elegant, but not also flawlessly crafted. In the first scene, surprisingly, Allen appears himself and, looking into the camera, is doing an interview and admits how guitarist Emmet Ray was his idol. Ben Duncan announces the same, expressing his deep admiration for him, but the punchline is that Ray is actually a fictional character. The warm and gentle story, paraphrasing Fellini's "The Road", has a few excellent jokes - for instance, Ray once says he had intercourse for the first time when he was 7 years old and that he once stole an alarm-clock of a musician who, as a consequence, overslept and was late for recording - while Sean Penn and Samantha Morton (who plays the mute Hattie and doesn't say a single word in the entire film, slightly resembling Gelsomina from the already mentioned "The Road") are in top-notch shape and were rightfully nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe. As a whole, the story seems too light and mild, and it wouldn't have been in the way if the deflating humor would have been more powerful, yet the touching story still manages to strike many right cues to insure a pleasant experience.Grade:++