May 15, 2010 / 3:49 PM / in 9 years

Woody Allen ushers "Tall Dark Stranger" into Cannes

CANNES, France (Reuters) - For anyone thinking age has its benefits — wisdom, maturity, etc. — veteran film director Woody Allen has a message: you’re wrong.

Director Woody Allen poses at a photocall for the film "You will meet a tall dark stranger" during the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 15, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The Oscar winner’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” — a witty tale of marriage gone awry — features one particular romance that makes audiences look closely at aging.

Launching his new film at the Cannes festival on Saturday, and Allen told reporters that with 74 years behind him, he has had plenty of time to dwell on getting older and he hates it.

“I find it a lousy deal,” he said. “You don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser, you don’t get more mellow, you don’t get more kindly. Nothing really happens. Your back hurts more, you get more indigestion, your eyesight isn’t as good, you need a hearing aid. It’s a bad business getting older, and I would advise you not to do it.”

While there is no doubt some of his best work is behind him: “Annie Hall,” “Hannah and Her Sisters” and a more recent hit “Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” the veteran writer/director still has what it takes to comment on love and life in his movies.

“You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” is a wry take on two married couples and their respective mates.

Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones play an older couple who have divorced because he wants to regain his youth. He takes up with a younger woman, while his ex-wife trains her eye on the future and becomes addicted to seeing a fortune teller.

Naomi Watts plays their only daughter whose husband (James Brolin) is a mediocre novelist. Both long to escape their marriage but when they do, they find that love relationships can often have bittersweet endings.


What plays out on screen is a whimsical, ironic story of the sometimes happy, sometimes sad, conclusions people reach when they embark on new searches for love.

The “tall dark stranger” is a nod not only to meeting a handsome lover who sweeps a person off their feet, but also the Grim Reaper waiting for us all at the end of our lives.

“This is my perspective and has always been my perspective on life — I have a very grim, pessimistic view of it,” Allen said. “I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience. The only way you can be happy is to tell yourself some lies and deceive yourself.”

The story takes place in London, but Allen said it could be set in his hometown New York, which until recently was where all of his roughly 40 movies were based.

He broke out of that mold with “Match Point,” also based in London, and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” set in Spain, which earned Penelope Cruz an Oscar for her potrayal of a fiery artist.

Allen is known for bringing out the best in actors, and he said his key to directing was good casting. Hopkins, Jones, Brolin and Watts are all accomplished performers.

Slideshow (4 Images)

“You hire the right people and give them responsibility, then keep your mouth shut and collect your paycheck,” he said.

And while age and death clearly were on his mind with “Tall Dark Stranger,” actually meeting the Grim Reaper is not something Allen thinks he will do anytime soon.

“My relationship with death remains the same,” he said. “I am strongly against it.”

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