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Irrational Man


Films that deal with philosophy do so in several ways. They may obliquely explore philosophy through their narratives, as is the case with much of Christopher Nolan‘s oeuvre. They may use cinematic devices such as editing and cinematography to work through philosophical concepts, such as Last Year at Marienbad and The Thin Red Line. Or they may explicitly state that they are being philosophical through dialogue and voiceover. Such is the case with Woody Allen’s Irrational Man, which not only has its characters discuss morality, and how to find/create meaning amidst the meaningless of existence, but features a university professor as its protagonist who embodies the philosophical issues that he ponders upon. This has the unfortunate effect of making the film obvious and ham-fisted, which is disappointing from Allen who explored similar concepts far more interestingly in Match Point. Carl Sprague and Jennifer Engel’s production design is engaging and Darius Khondji’s cinematography gives both human and non-human surfaces a gorgeous hue, while Joaquin Phoenix’s is perfectly fine as the angst-ridden professor to Emma Stone’s engagingly starstruck student (see if you can guess where that goes). Allen’s direction is assured and efficient, but his script is clunky and over-determined to the point of being obvious. Perhaps ironically, Irrational Man is too rational for its own good, explaining too much rather than performing the true practice of philosophy, that of questioning.



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