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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 13:03 GMT 14:03 UK
Allen's comic Cannes entrance
Woody Allen plays film director Val Waxman
Woody Allen returns to familiar territory in Hollywood Ending
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By Helen Bushby
BBC News Online in Cannes

Woody Allen is back on the big screen at the Cannes film festival, where his latest film, Hollywood Ending, sees him star as a neurotic, hypochondriac film director desperate to reclaim the limelight.

The film is typical Allen fare, not least because his character, Val Waxman, has relationships with improbably beautiful women who seem able to overlook his baggy cords, hand-wringing and incessant navel gazing.

Hollywood Ending
The Cannes audience applauded at the end of the film
As he lurches from crisis to neurotic crisis, you get the feeling you have seen all of this before - it is not the first time he has played a highly-strung intellectual New Yorker who juggles his dilemmas and women simultaneously.

But it is still a delight to watch, mainly because it is incredibly funny. Allen's typical one-liners are all there, but the real humour comes from the physical comedy as he plays out an unexpected twist in the plot.

Double Oscar-winner Val is so highly strung that no one will hire him - he is convinced he has had the black plague, an allergy to oxygen and elm blight - and is finally reduced to being sacked from a deodorant commercial in the snowy wastes of Canada.

The only person who will offer him a directing job is his ex-wife Ellie, played by Téa Leoni.

Woody Allen (right)
Val's anxiety gets the better of him
Unfortunately for Val, the studio financing the job is run by Ellie's slick new beau Hal. Val is still smarting at being rejected by his former spouse, and says: "I would kill for this job - but the people I want to kill are offering me the job."

Val swallows his pride and takes up the offer, but of course his anxiety gets the better of him, with disastrous results.

His worries about working with Ellie - with whom he is still infatuated - and several other unresolved ''issues'' cause him to go psychosomatically blind. Despite this calamity, he is persuaded by his agent to carry on directing in the hope no one will notice.

This of course this provides the ideal showcase for Allen's comic skills and black humour.

The story ends somewhat predictably, but overall it is redeemed by the film's hilarity factor, which had the audience applauding as the credits rolled - not an easy feat at Cannes film festival.

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