Film reviews and more since 2009

Coup de chance (2024) review

Dir. Woody Allen

By: Steve Pulaski

Rating: ★★★½

At 88-years-old, and now with his 50th film in the can, Woody Allen has nothing left to prove. Die-hard fans anticipate his latest works due to our gratitude that he is still with us, not to mention able-bodied enough to gift us more even as he approaches nonagenarian status. We know full-well that his newest film will have elements of his previous, but at this point, the familiarity is what brings us back. More often than not, it merits a gentle smile.

Coup de chance is Allen’s first film since Rifkin’s Festival, which initially premiered in 2020, but wasn’t accessible to most until its low-key release in 2022. That was a sleepy noodling that found its energy in misguided attacks on the younger generation of filmmakers. Thankfully, another change of scenery (and language) has reinvigorated the magnificent storyteller. He delivers my favorite film of his since Irrational Man; feel free to replace with your most recent favorite.

Allen’s first French-language picture opens on the streets of Paris with a chance encounter between two former acquaintances. Fanny (Lou de Laâge), who works at a local auction house, bumps into Alain (Niels Schneider), a writer who has set up camp in the City of Love in search of inspiration for his novel. This is the pair’s first interaction since high school students in New York, where Alain had an intense crush on Fanny. Now, Fanny is married to Jean (Melvil Poupaud), a wealthy businessman who gives her every tangible thing she could want.

Overtime, Fanny and Alain segue from having lunch together to having an affair in Alain’s tiny apartment. This is of course in between Fanny and Jean’s vacations to their country home where Jean goes hunting in a nearby woods. The looming threat of violence is imminent. These things rarely end cleanly.

Allen enthusiasts will recognize some immediate parallels to his previous works. The core love-triangle recalls Match Point. The pointed humor and murderous turns echo Crimes and Misdemeanors. But where he waxed cynical about mysticism in films like Magic in the Moonlight and filmmakers 50 years his junior in the aforementioned Rifkin’s Festival, Allen is in a more whimsical mood, despite the dark undertones present here. Coup de chance, which translates to “stroke of luck,” finds Allen smitten with the role that luck, chance, and circumstance plays in our lives.

It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s quietly beautiful. Consider a scene where Alain tells Fanny that the fact the two of them even exist is a minor miracle. The odds of them, or anyone, being born are so infinitesimal that the odds of winning the lottery don’t appear to be such a longshot. Alain is clearly the Allen archetype in this story, so this nugget of wisdom coming from his stand-in is a sign of the veteran filmmaker’s age talking. It’s inspiring to see, and even if it only lasts for a film, it’s a comforting notion that this feeling exists inside Allen.

Coup de chance is Allen’s first film that doesn’t feature a recognizable actor, at least for American audiences. This is an unexpected delight in itself, as we can see the vivid characters through the performers. Lou de Laâge is an utter delight: radiant and bashful. Niels Schneider is equally likable, wide-eyed and gleeful in his youthful optimism. Valérie Lemercier’s turn as Fanny’s mother, Camille, is a role that evolves into one shows that all-too-relatable motherly wisdom. She makes a character out of someone you were just starting to fear would be sidelined.

This is also Allen’s fifth consecutive collaboration with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who has bolstered his more recent and less-impressive films. While Storaro’s filmography doesn’t need a great story to complement it, such a pairing obviously helps both thrive. It does so here in spades. Storaro’s visuals take on many forms throughout the story. The saturated colors, burnish, autumnal reds, and various displays of light and shadows all work to accentuate various Parisian locales. Score that to a delightful assortment of jazz arrangements, and you’ve got a film brimming with aesthetic life.

Coup de chance inspires gratefulness, even as its suspense forms a light-but-present chokehold on you in its final 20 minutes. It inspires gratitude that Woody Allen is still doing his thing, be it writing books or making films. It inspires gratefulness for the blind luck and fateful chances that are responsible, whether we know it or not, for our successes in life. There’s a complementary film to be made about the darker side of these largely uncredited facets of these unseen forces in our lives, and maybe that’s to be examined in Allen’s next project. For now, however, it’s a pleasure to relish in the positives, which Coup de chance liberally bears.

NOTE: As of this writing, Coup de chance is available to rent on multiple platforms.

Starring: Lou de Laâge, Melvil Poupaud, Valérie Lemercier, and Niels Schneider. Directed by: Woody Allen.

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About Steve Pulaski

Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!

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