COUP DE CHANCE. Woody Allen’s Best Film in Years [REVIEW]

Jan Tracz

6 September 2023

Woody Allen’s films often garner admiration when they combine clever dialogues with a whimsical style. Fortunately, Coup de chance fits into these parameters, making it one of the director’s best films in years.

Since characters in Allen’s movie are non-English-speaking, it’s European. And if it’s French, then it’s set in Paris. Woody Allen’s enduring love for this city is well-known. Even if he chose Paris for pragmatic reasons related to film financing, it turned out to be a good decision. In Allen’s films, Paris is more beautiful than in reality. Is it the magic of cinema? Absolutely. Does he understand and appreciate French culture? Without a doubt.

The first scene sets the stage for what we can expect in this Allen-esque production. Two young people, Fanny and Alain, accidentally meet in Paris. They know each other from high school (Alain had a crush on his classmate). They engage in awkward small talk, exchange numbers, and that’s about it. But there’s a spark between them! We begin to realize that Allen is taking us back to his sensual and charming days.

He is a writer, an idealist, a young author, a “Dreamer,” and at times, a bit of a lightweight. She is also an artistic soul, particularly fond of poetry, although her office job at an art gallery doesn’t bring her much satisfaction. Both are divorced, with one exception: he’s currently single, and she’s in a relationship with her second husband, who is somewhat possessive, childishly envious, slightly eccentric, but incredibly wealthy. Her Jean is also an eccentric – he has a huge collection of miniature trains and a replica of a train route that he probably loves more than his wife. And she, as we learn, married him more out of necessity than love. It’s no wonder that Fanny becomes more and more involved with Alain. And Jean begins to suspect that something is amiss. And he’s not the type to forget quickly.

What works perfectly for Allen in this film is the way he plays with the audience and their expectations. “Coup de chance” starts as a typical Allen-esque romance, exploring human weaknesses and denying that people – weak beings – can avoid hurting their partners. Surprisingly, it doesn’t stop there: the script takes a complete turn halfway through the film, changing both the tone and dynamics of the comedy, as well as its main premise. What initially seemed like a combination of Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and the idyllic atmosphere of A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy quickly turns into a light and engaging crime story, reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. At a certain point, Fanny’s mother enters the stage; initially appearing only briefly, she gradually assumes a more significant role in this enigmatic performance. It’s hard to believe that all of this fits into a film that is less than two hours long, but it’s true – Allen still has the creative energy in his old age.

Not only did he make a comedy for the first time in about a decade that doesn’t resemble the unintuitive repetition of his previous films, but he also ventured beyond the boundaries of his own microcosm. Allen wrote the script in French and cast (at least) some lesser-known actors and actresses. Some critics argued that Allen’s dialogue in this film was too informative and lacked humor. Allen himself mentioned that he doesn’t know French as well, but this argument from the audience is rather unjustified. It’s true that sometimes you have to wait for a well-placed joke to arrive, but it’s not as if the film lacks delightful verbal exchanges.

One thing is certain: Allen indulges more in comedy of errors in this film. The series of events in the movie surprises and amuses more than ever, and Allen manages to incorporate some philosophical elements into the film. By offering us a discussion on the title’s “stroke of luck,” somewhat reminiscent of Shakespeare – through irony and situational humor – he ponders to what extent we can build our own happiness (while having it), and to what extent it is beyond our control. There are no profound conclusions, but that’s not necessarily a drawback: we receive the answers to these questions in the final catharsis, which is predictable but reminds us of the soothing power of cinema.

Woody Allen’s fiftieth film will likely conclude his filmography on this milestone number (although who knows, he seemed to be in excellent shape at the Venice conference). Coup de chance may not enter the canon, but for some, it has the potential to become a cult film. For an aging Allen, that should be both just enough and more than enough.

Jan Tracz

Jan Tracz

A journalist with four years of experience in the cultural industry (film, music, literature, politics). Writer for respected Polish and English sites and magazines, interviewed most famous stars, writers, actors, talents, directors and musicians (incl. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lasse Hallström, Matthew Lewis, David Thomson, Richard Dyer, Rachel Shenton, Tom Wlaschiha, Lena Olin, Jenna Elfman, Lennie James, Yannick Bisson, Ximena Lamadrid, Malcolm Storry, Alexandra Savior). Current Film Studies MA student at King's College London.

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