• Wendy Shreve


Manhattan (1979), Isaac (Woody Allen), the protagonist meets his love interest's former flame, Jeremiah (Wallace Shawn), a short, goofy, opiniated bald man whom Isaac can't imagine Mary (Diane Keaton) would find attractive. Here, Writer/Director Woody Allen mocks his own image of himself. Decades later, Allen attempts to resolve his physical as well as psychological issues, for example his hypochondria, while paying homage to his beloved cinematic icons in his latest endeavor, Rifkin's Festival (2021).

Beginning his narration of the movie, Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn) recounts his trip to the San Sebastián (Spain) Film Festival with his publicist wife (Gina Gershon as Sue) to his therapist (Michael Garvey). Mort confesses that what had once been a joy--attending festivals--has become tedious.

What he doesn't see during the early days of the Festival comprises Sue's own fatigue regarding Mort. His whining pushes her into temptation with a French director, Philippe (Louis Garrel) whom Mort considers naïve, because Philippe strives to find a positive, future outcome to the Israeli/Arab conflict in his latest movie.

Mort's pessimism reminds us how much Woody Allen has shared his own neuroses and often unhappiness in earlier films. Themes that his most respected auteurs--Bergman, Luis Buñuel, Fellini, Godard, Welles, plus others--highlight in their works. In Rifkin's Festival, on the other hand, the audience will be in for a few surprises.

As Mort, Wallace Shawn captures the essence of a man who begins to recognize that he may never write the literary masterpiece that he's attempted for decades. When his opinions about film, based on his tenure as a professor of cinema are overlooked by his wife, festival attendees, colleagues, Mort becomes despondent. He then, strays and pursues another woman (Elena Anaya) though the relationship remains platonic.

Along the way, references to such movies as 8 1/2, Citizen Kane, Breathless, Persona, The Exterminating Angel, The Seventh Seal, and others illuminate rather than distract from the narrative. Still, Allen manages to include a healthy dose of humor, self-deprecation, commentary about pretension in filmmaking, life, suicide, all of which may seem familiar. However, this movie--maybe rightly so--appears to be his adios to his fans, admirers and detractors: an appropriate culmination of his career.

Seeing Mort revel in the beauty that surrounds him--the San Sebastián vistas are breathtaking; filmed by Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro--appreciate life, confront Death (a perfectly cast Oscar-winning actor, you'll have to wait and see who, portrays the illusory figure), yet allow la dolce vita, or buena vida, to touch his heart, warrants investing your time in Rifkin's Festival.

Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexual innuendo.

Available in select theaters and on digital January 28th.

Earlier reviews not seen on this website (before May 20, 2021) are available on or my previous blog site,

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