tue 04/08/2020

Crisis in Six Scenes, Amazon Prime | reviews, news & interviews

Crisis in Six Scenes, Amazon Prime

Crisis in Six Scenes, Amazon Prime

Woody Allen knocks out all the old tunes starring in his first ever TV series

Woody Allen and Elaine May as Sidney and Kay in 'Crisis in Six Scenes'

At the age of 80 Woody Allen has made his first television series. It’s for Amazon, which would suggest he knows how to move with the times. That would be a false impression, because Crisis in Six Scenes is vintage Allen in the sense that it's a museum piece starring Allen himself as yet another of his neurotic hypochondriacs. The only novelty is that it comes in the shape of half a dozen bite-sized squibs, released weekly. Lump them together and they’d amount to one of another movie.

The opening montage features archive images of riot and imminent revolution in Sixties America, accompanied by Jefferson Airplane’s rousing “Volunteers”, before, in a neat swivel, we cut straight to an old-time barber shop where the novelist Sidney J Munsinger is being trash-talked by his Italian crimper. “I can’t make you look like James Dean.” “Come as close as you can.” The barber is not a fan of Munsinger’s narcolepsy-inducing postmodern fiction (“like the ravings of a madman”). Munsinger announces that he’s heading into the mainstream and making a television show. “It’s very lucrative,” he says metatextually.

The television show Allen has made is a sort of belated sequel to his mid-Seventies masterpieces. Sidney Munsinger is essentially Alvy Singer in old age, living in the New York suburbs and happily married to a woman his own age who works as a marriage counsellor. We meet Kay (Elaine May, glorious) in a session with an elderly couple who, in a lengthy duet, list the tastes they don’t share, apart from a mutual loathing of guacamole. Kay always has a glass of white wine on the go and speaks with a wry slur, while Sidney riffs about his fears of travel, disease and barbecues.

The first episode features a very funny book club scene with old ladies discussing Kafka (“He turns into a giant cockroach!”) and a less funny dinner party. By the end the Munsingers have repaired to bed, while downstairs an unidentified burglar is breaking in, and Sidney’s self-declared yellow streak will be put to the test.

So is Crisis in Six Scenes worthy of your time? On the plus side, it’s been a while since Allen the actor has put himself front and centre. Anyone who has missed his brand of whiny angst, peppered with the crisp jokes about fear of death he’s been cracking since the 1960s, will find something to savour. “I read an article in a magazine that you can add years to your life if you avoid anything pleasurable.” “Shall I say my prayers in the event that there’s a god and I’ve been wrong all these years?” And so on. There’s an extra sweetener supplied by Allen’s faulty memory, which means gags come about faltering and uncertain.

Of course it would be unreasonable to expect Allen to have written any new tunes for himself this late in the game. A high tolerance for existential anxiety is an indispensable requirement. Later episodes promise Miley Cyrus (pictured above on set with Allen) as a flower child. It’s flimsy, but fun.

Sidney Munsinger is essentially Alvy Singer in old age, living in the New York suburbs and happily married to a marriage counsellor

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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