Mort Rifkin, a snobby elderly film critic from New York[disambiguation needed], is telling his therapist about the recent developments in his life. In the recount, he’s accompanying his much younger wife Sue to a film festival in San Sebastián. She works as a press agent for Philippe, a French director whose banal and derivative anti-war film is being universally celebrated as a masterpiece, to Mort’s chagrin. Mort quickly becomes jealous of Sue and Philippe’s relationship, which increasingly moves into open flirtation. Mort’s inner thoughts and fears causes him to have nightmares inspired by well-known black and white cinematic classics like Citizen Kane, Breathless, Jules and Jim, Persona, The Exterminating Angel, and 8½.
While at the festival, Mort reminisces about his life and the pretentious novel that he’s been writing for decades, trying to achieve a literary relevance that eludes him. He reflects upon his younger years when he used to teach cinema at the university and felt happy and stimulated. Meanwhile, he’s helpless to keep Sue and Philippe from spending time with each other. Eventually, he seeks medical advice about some chest pains and meets Joanna „Jo” Rojas, a Spanish doctor who spent some time in New York and is now unhappily married with an unfaithful, temperamental artist. Joanna leaves a lasting impression on Mort and he repeatedly tries to engage her attention by faking health issues. Eventually, the two go on a sight-seeing drive through the surrounding country, both having a good time in the process.
On their way back to town, a flat tire forces Joanna and Mort to hitchhike back to Joanna’s home, where she discovers her husband cheating on her with one of his models. The two have a bitter fight, then Joanna takes Mort back to his hotel. Here, Sue confronts Mort about their deteriorating relationship, eventually announcing she’s leaving him to start a new life with Philippe. The next morning, Mort calls Joanna, hoping to see her again before he has to return to New York, but she politely declines, despite harboring some affection for Mort and doubts about her own marriage’s toxicity.
Finally, Mort imagines himself playing chess with Death in a parody of Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film The Seventh Seal. Death tells him that human life is ultimately meaningless, but doesn’t need to be empty. In a parting word of advice, Death tells Mort that he will see him again in the future, but Mort might win some extra time by making sure to exercise and to avoid processed foods. As the festival reaches its closing day, Mort reflects upon his changed circumstances, pondering to go back to be a teacher, this time with a less rigid attitude towards art. Back in New York, he asks his therapist what he should do now.
ES/US/IT 2020, 92 Min., engl. OmU,
Regie: Woody Allen
Kamera: Vittorio Storaro
Schnitt: Alisa Lepselter
mit: Elena Anaya, Louis Garrel, Gina Gershon, Sergi López, Wallace Shawn, Christoph Waltz