Alvy Singer Abroad: A History of Woody Allen's Travels

104094700 Alvy Singer Abroad: A History of Woody Allen's TravelsWoody Allen may soon need to ask the State Department for extra pages in his passport: he’s just announced that he’s making yet another film in a foreign land. This time, he’s off to Rome (we hope his film’s more La Dolce Vita than Nine)–this after four films set in London, one in Barcelona, and the upcoming Midnight in Paris returning to the city of 1996′s Everyone Says I Love You. How has the quintessential New York filmmaker fared in far-off cities?

Midnight in Paris (2011), Paris

Specificity to place: The ensemble cast features noted Frenchwomen Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, Marion Cotillard, and… Kathy Bates.

Quality: Remains to be seen, though the film’s been chosen to open this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010), London

Specificity to place: British newspaper The Guardian thought Mr. Allen had finally gotten London people (“at least a certain fairly wealthy section of them,” which is, then, of a piece with his New York work) right.

Quality: David Edelstein wrote for New York, “In his mid-70s and working mostly abroad, Allen has settled into a new groove. But it’s not a deep or enlivening one. His despair has finally become weightless — a reflexive shrug.”

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Barcelona

Specificity to place: A sovereignty mini-controversy broke out when, after Barcelona and Catalonia’s governments helped fund the film, they insisted it be shown in the Catalan language–though the actors speak Spanish.

Quality: Manohla Dargis wrote for The New York Times: “There will always be an audience that hungers for a certain kind of Woody Allen movie, but it’s a relief that he has moved away from the safety and provincialism of his New York.”

Cassandra’s Dream (2007), London

Specificity to place: The Times of London called the British accents of Irish actor Colin Farrell and Scots actor Ewan McGregor “excruciating,” in a precursor to that everyone-in-a-country-talks-the-same Spanish/Catalan flap.

Quality: That same review noted: “Great comic potential is wasted here as Allen instead attempts to plumb dramatic depths.” American audiences let the film sink without acclaim or even much notice.

Scoop (2006), London

Specificity to place: Mr. Allen bypassed the question of accent, to a degree, by casting Scarlett Johansson as an American on holiday–and himself as an American on permanent vacation (he later went method for this role). There are a lot of expats in London, to be sure!

Quality: “As in Match Point, the class-resistant Yank is attracted to the upper-class Brit[...] But unlike its predecessor, Scoop also possessively tethers its bodacious leading lady to the über-shtick of Allen himself,” wrote Entertainment Weekly. This was the last time to date that Mr. Allen has appeared onscreen.

Match Point (2005), London

Specificity to place: A Woody Allen film abroad was novel enough, then, that the New York Times ran a Travel section feature on the film during Oscar season–and concluded that the film was accurate, at least by comparison to Notting Hill.

Quality: Mr. Allen called Match Point “maybe the best film that I’ve made.” It was the last of his films to earn him an Oscar nomination!

Hollywood Ending (2002), Los Angeles

Specificity to place: Despite its Angeleno title and its premise–a washed-up director seeks to shore up his fortunes by making an even more spectacular, splashy feature–this film actually takes place in New York. In reality, a story like this might begin in New York, but would end in Europe.

Quality: Like Midnight in Paris, this one opened Cannes, too, for what that’s worth.

ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_