Sweet And Lowdown (Woody Allen) - 1999

Sean Penn plays the weasely, fictional character (Emmet Ray) who considers himself to be the second best guitar player in the world.  The film is set in the 1930s and shot in a semi-documentary style.  Penn/Ray is a dysfunctional artist/kleptomaniac who has trouble meeting his musical and financial obligations but seems to have plenty of time to shoot rats at the dump and watch trains pass.  Samantha Morton delivers a terrific performance as Penn's mute girl friend (Hattie).  Penn and Morton were nominated for Academy Awards.  Woody's guitarist, Ray is mesmerized by the talent of Django Reinhardt (1910-1953) who makes a brief appearance (played by Michael Sprague) toward the end of the movie.  This is one of Woody's best movies.  The stars are jazz guitarist Howard Alden and musical conductor, Dick Hyman.  As ever in Woody's movies, the music-lover is not short-changed. [JAM 9/8/2010]

["I was going to play in The Jazz Baby (original title), and so it would have been lighter.  I would have brought a lighter sensibility.  Thank God I didn't play it because it's much, much better the way Sean did it.  Sean is a billion times the actor I am and a hundred times deeper and more complex and more interesting.  He made the picture an interesting story.  I would have made it amusing in spots, but he infused it with some impact." Conversations with Woody Allen - February 2006]