Bullets Over Broadway ★★★½

Almost a less stylised Stardust Memories, this Allen outing sees him more subtly espousing views on authorship, an artist's relationship to his audience and own work, and ideas of compromise and creative prostitution. I hugely admire how he makes use of Dianne Wiest's (deservedly) Oscar-winning performance, juxtaposing her with Jennifer Tilly's more overtly demanding character to show the various ways in which artistic vision is slighted for personal reasons. Allen is a filmmaker famously critical of his own work, having gone on record over and over as having said almost none of his films have been what he desired of them; here he describes a great deal why, crafting a story of surprising allegorical depth that reflects on his own career whilst still functioning as a fun and slightly over-the-top comic story too. The evident references to Singin' in the Rain and Sunset Boulevard help a lot in alluding to this underlying incisiveness on the moviemaking process. I've said of Allen films that I haven't much enjoyed that they fail for the lack of the Allen character, the one he would normally take himself. The man is a brilliant writer, but never does he write so well as for his own real neuroses. Perhaps he casts John Cusack in that role here to avoid overselling the slyly biographical aspects of the story; whatever the reason, it's an inspired choice. Cusack was wonderful in Shadows and Fog, and here Allen gives him even more responsibility which he handles perfectly. Many praised Owen Wilson last year for channeling Woody's screen presence perfectly. Balls to that I say, Cusack does it here so well as to make Woody himself seem a bad Allen impersonator.