Projections - Movie Reviews

Sweet and Lowdown Sweet and Lowdown

Woody Allen evokes some of his Broadway Danny Rose in his latest fictional biography of Manhattan jazz guitarist Emmet Ray.  Sweet and Lowdown takes place in the 1930's when its main character is at his peak as a musician.  It is a nicely scaled picture right down to the melodious sounds that are handled by Howard Alden.

Sean Penn is quite believable as the man who's in heaven on stage and quite unscrupulous when he isn't playing.  His Emmet is quite brazen and selfish when it comes to the opposite sex, as his guitar is what he truly loves.

With jazz aficionados Douglas McGrath, Nat Hentoff, and Ben Duncan, Woody Allen gives the audience an insider's view of this little known jazz man who made a name for himself for awhile in the 30's.

The show biz nature of Danny Rose is felt, especially with an amateur talent search humorously shows Emmet dangling on a crescent moon as he makes his way on stage.

The artist, who is a love-em and leave-em type, is somehow moved by a mute, orphaned half-wit he calls Hattie (Samantha Morton).  She is a laundress he gets paired with on the boardwalk of Atlantic City.  The vain guitarist attracts the kind Hattie who is seduced by his music.

Allen takes a long and detailed look at their year-long companionship.  During the year, trials, tribulations and seductive temptations cause Ray to leave her.  He soon marries a sophisticated writer, Blanche, played with skill by Uma Thurman.  She finds Emmet intriguing.  Her interest in him is short lived; she soon turns to Anthony Lapaglia's gangster Al Torrio.  Lowdown brews sweetly as Emmet sees the error of his ways with Hattie.

Allen's latest film feels more refreshing than the ambitious Celebrity.  The film allows the versatile Penn to showcase the selfish, outspoken musician without the Allen mannerisms employed by other actors in the primary roles.

Morton's continuing laudable efforts point to Allen's appreciation of Frederico Fellini.  The recollections have the relaxed director excelling with his longtime production designer Santo Loquasto.  Loquasto helps to capture the feel of the times, especially in Hollywood where Emmet plays in a musical take on All of Me.

Costume designer Laura Cunningham Bauer gives Ray some slick outfits and cinematographer Zhao Fei lenses the proceedings with veteran panache.

The well placed, sagacious picture shows the lowdown ways of Penn never far off key as his first collaboration with Allen rings true of a man who lives for his music.

Sweet and Lowdown

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