The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

No reason to curse the curse movie

with 15 comments

I never understood the big fuss about Midnight in Paris when it came out last year. Not that there was anything wrong with it: I thought it was pretty delightful, though lightweight, and gave it a 4/5.

However it didn’t stand out for me among other Allen movies and I certainly didn’t buy into the idea that he had been out of shape for decades, making mediocre movies and that he now had made a masterpiece that brought him back to the top.

As little as I understood the hype about that film, as little do I understand the scorn and hatred some of Allen’s older movies get. For me an Allen is an Allen. I’ve seen a lot of his movies over the years and I can only think of a handful that I really didn’t like, mainly his earliest ventures into slapstick such as Bananas. But on the whole, they’re all good – and sometimes brilliant.

Looking around it seems as if The Curse of the Jade Scorpion didn’t please the critics. Martin Teller, a blogger whose knowledge and taste I respect, has watched and graded no less than 40 Woody Allen movies and he ranks this one as Allen’s worst.

And I don’t quite get it to be honest. I thought this was a pretty charming little story. Is it silly? Yes. But charmingly so. I would put it in the same category of silliness as Midnight in Paris.

I won’t go into the plot, since it’s so simple that you can’t really talk about it without spoiling it. But I think some keywords from IMDb will give you the picture:

insurance investigator
thief
scorpion
magician
1940s
efficency expert
office affair
escape
burglary

I was entertained well enough and that’s actually all I expect from an Allen film. My only objection would be that it’s a little bit tiresome that we always get to see young, hot women throwing themselves in the arms of elderly men, but that it’s so rare that we ever get to see the opposite. Would it be impossible for Allen’s character to actually date someone of his own age for once?

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (Woody Allen, US, 2001) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

August 23, 2012 at 8:13 am

15 Responses

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  1. I haven’t heard of this (and I’m not very familiar with Allen either, having only seen Annie Hall, Manhattan and Midnight in Paris), but it sounds strangely interesting. I’d probably like it, knowing me.

    Tyler

    August 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

    • You’ve got a lot of Allen to catch up with! Though this one is charming, there are others I’d recommend you over it. The Purple Rose of Kairo, Zelig, Hannah and Her Sisters and Radio Days are among those I love most. And Match Point. And the musical Everyone Says I love you. Just to mention a few.

      Jessica

      August 23, 2012 at 11:33 am

  2. It’s been so long since I seen this that I can’t actually remember much about it Jessica but I’m with you on Midnight In Paris. It’s was a good film but the praise it recieved was a bit over the top. I gave it 3.5/5.

    Mark Walker

    August 23, 2012 at 10:47 am

    • Yeah. I gave it a 4/5, but it was a weak 4/5 and mostly because I’m such a fan of Allen in general.

      Jessica

      August 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

  3. I hear what you’re saying. While a few of Woody’s movies in the last 10 years or so have not been my favorites, I still feel like they have enjoyable moments in them. Like with Jade Scorpion, I love that part near the end when Woody shows up and falls into the trash cans and says he’s “just passing through.” Something about his delivery and when the he plays it cracks me up.

    Nick

    August 24, 2012 at 3:18 am

    • Yeah, I cracked up quite a few times. I actually liked the silliness in the hypnosis scenes for instance. Which is a little strange since I’m so picky when it comes to humor, but for some reason Allen’s humor matches with mine most of the time.

      Jessica

      August 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more — this is certainly a charming little movie. Not up there with his best, but I seem to remember that I enjoyed this one more than, say, Match Point.

    Sofia

    August 24, 2012 at 10:54 am

    • Actually you’re speaking to the wrong person here. I love Match Point. It has a special place in my heart since I introduced my children to Allen by that one and they fell in love with it and are Allen fans eversince. I consider it one of his better films. But I know I’m in a minority there.

      Jessica

      August 26, 2012 at 12:17 pm

  5. I actually have a quite vivid memory of seeing this one on the plane when flying home for christmas from the US.

    Its a typical “Woody Bagatell” as you say its from the same subgenre of films like Midnight in Paris. Decent but not as awesome as he made them in the 70’s.

    Joel Burman

    August 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    • People say that Allen is a hit and miss, but I must say that I think it’s rare that he’s worse than decent. I’m a tad worried about the latest Rome movie though after seeing it getting so terrible reviews.

      Jessica

      August 26, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  6. Midnight in Paris is a light, frothy, beautiful movie (though one with plenty of subtext worth chewing over, if you care enough to dissect the film’s thoughts on nostalgia), acted impeccably and smartly made. Above all else, it’s light years ahead of most of what Allen has made in the last decade (Vicki Christina Barcelona and Whatever Works spring immediately to mind). It isn’t mediocre– it’s genuinely good despite that airiness. That alone, I think, is enough to warrant all the praise it got upon release last year, though I happen to think it has rich depth if you step back from its more surface-oriented pleasures.

    If you want to talk underrated Allen, well, two of my favorites out of his filmography are Sleeper and Shadows and Fog. I often suspect I’m one of the only people who genuinely likes either of those films.

    Andrew

    August 24, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    • I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Sleeper. I put it in the same category as Bananas. Early experiment. Shadows and Fog I don’t remember all that well, but I don’t think I disliked it.

      Jessica

      August 26, 2012 at 12:15 pm

  7. Nice post. Haven’t seen Curse of the Jade Scorpion but heard from many people how it’s Allen’s worst. I really can’t say. I loved Midnight in Paris but I understand if you didn’t fall head over heels in love with it. It IS very lightweight.

    fernandorafael

    August 26, 2012 at 6:13 am

    • Thanks Fernando. Well, if the Jade Scorpion is the worst, I must say that he has a very high lowest level.
      Again: I liked Midnight in Paris; I just didn’t understand that people went crazy about it. To me it was a pretty average Allen.

      Jessica

      August 26, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      • Yes. The other day I was talking about Nolan’s relatively short filmography and said that Insomnia was his worst, but in no way a bad movie. Many, many directors’ best films aren’t at the level of that one! And I was one of the people who went crazy over MIP but I can’t explain it either! haha

        fernandorafael

        August 26, 2012 at 7:45 pm


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