The new Woody Allen movie "Scoop" -- which I saw last night -- is ostensibly about a beautiful college girl who fancies herself a reporter and sleeps with men as an investigative reporting technique. She's trying to get the scoop. We see her using this technique -- ineffectively -- in a short scene in the beginning of the movie. Then, after she gets a tip from a ghost that a certain aristocrat is a serial murderer, she applies this technique to him. Scarlett Johansson plays the woman, AKA Sondra Pransky, AKA Jade Julliard Spence. Hugh Jackman is the aristocrat, Peter Lydon. And Woody Allen plays a catalytic role as a corny old magician named Splendini, who unwittingly puts Scarlett in touch with the ghost when he pulls her out of the audience to participate in a trick. She, in turn, pulls him out of his stale magician life to investigate the serial murder with her. Along the way, she tells the aristocrats he's her father, and he plays along, becoming more involved in the investigation as she drifts into love with Peter Lydon.
Okay, that's all very well. There were some jokes that made me laugh out loud. For some reason, I thought it was hilarious when Splendini was posing as a reporter, and his interviewee asked him what paper he was from, and -- after some stuttering -- he said, "The Washington Post," and then babbled about "All the President's Men" and said that he was "the little guy."
Seeing the story this way, it seems good enough, but likely to be dismissed as fluff.
But this is not what the movie is about!
First, if you're inclined to think it's one of Allen's throwaway flicks, a light variation on the dark "Matchpoint," which also starred Johansson, you might point to the silliness of starting off the story by having a ghost giving the main character a tip about a murder. But that's no mark of frivolity. That's an allusion to "Hamlet." That's a tip for you to concentrate on the psycho-sexual details of the story.
The movie teems with sexual imagery -- and I don't just mean the frequent tableaux of a man in a boat. There is also the woman in a box -- the magician's box -- where the man -- Splendini -- "excites her molecules" -- as he puts it, more than once, during a trick where she's supposed to disappear (and where she is stunned to encounter a man who tells her something shocking). There is the locked music room, which you have to go downstairs to reach and find next to a wine rack that consists of phallic bottles stuck in holes.
You need to know the secret code to get into the room. Peter Lydon -- Peter Lie Down -- takes the woman into the room when he is trying to seduce her. The instruments all symbolize genitalia -- oboes and clarinets for the male and plenty of lutes and violins and French horns for the female. Lydon shows Sondra a Stradivarius and tells her it needs to be played. Remember her invented middle name is Juilliard.
Later, Splendini gets into the music room with Sondra, and he picks up the French horn and holds it with the fingers of one hand inside the bell and says he knows a filthy joke about how the French horn player slept with his wife. We never hear the joke, so we're forced to speculate on our own about the way the horn is like a woman's body and the position of the man's hand. Later, important clues are found hidden under the bell of that French horn.
Now, Lydon gets the girl, and he also easily knows the code to get into the music room. Splendini is denied access to her. Woody Allen displays himself as miserably old, shrunken away from any sexual vibrancy. And Sondra has designated him as her father -- giving the character the message that he can't ever be considered. And Woody Allen further humbles himself before us, because we know of his real-life humiliation as a man who had sex with a woman for whom he served as a father. Splendini's wretched age shows itself as he cannot remember the code to get into the room. The code is a series of three two-digit numbers (even though the lock is a keypad, not a combination lock), and the three numbers really seem like the ages of young women he cannot have, something like 16, 21, 23.
So I think this is Woody's elaborate meditation about sex, specifically about an old man's exclusion from sex. The scoop, which Splendini can't get, is the woman's vagina. (Dictionary definition of "scoop": "7. A hollow area; a cavity.") There are many more things I could talk about here, but I don't want to spoil the ending and I've gone on too long already.