-Rifkin’s Festival deserves points for at least attempting to ponder such things, and it does so in a way so wistful and universally dissatisfied that’s it’s almost touching: Instead of making a great film himself, Allen has created his own festival of film favorites (Citizen Kane, 8½, Jules and Jim, The Seventh Seal), restaging and reshooting them as parodies in which Mort’s life and marital woes play out in pristine black-and-white clips. 
-Beyond serving as a guessing game for movie buffs, the scenes offer up a few easy laughs. A Fellini spoof filled with kvetching New Yorkers is fun, as is a riff on Breathless where Shawn and Gershon discuss their ideal threesome partners (Mort mentions his sister-in-law). But they’re mostly tired pieces of cinema lore that make one yearn for the works themselves, or else for some of Woody Allen’s own movies (Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanors) that belong in the canon, if they’re still allowed to be in there. 
-So it’s a relief to report that “Rifkin’s Festival” is, to the ravenous captive, like finding an unexpected stash of dessert: not substantial and not nutritious, but sweet enough to remind you in passing of the good times you once had, despite all that’s happened in the interim. 
-And as thin on real meaning as it is, “Rifkin’s Festival,” viewed charitably, is actually quite full — of a rueful acknowledgment of the lateness of the hour, and the silliness of an old man applying old-man values to a world that’s getting younger around him by the day. 
-Rifkin’s Festival is a romantic farce, with ideas that long-time fans will recognize from a range of other Allen films, but with one difference. The movie ends on a surprisingly sweet note. Allen isn’t a “message” filmmaker. And yet, now in the final act of his life, the director, who has often made movies suggesting that life inevitably disappoints, has some sweet and encouraging things to say. If this was to be his last film, it is a sweet final thought. 
Mort Rifkin (Wallace Shawn - Manhattan, My Dinner with Andre), a retired film studies professor, accompanies his publicist wife Sue (Gina Gershon New Amsterdam, Killer Joe) to the San Sebastian Film Festival in Spain. He goes not for the films, but because he's worried that Sue's fascination with her young buzzed-about film director client, Philippe (Louis Garrel - Little Women, An Officer and a Spy), might be more than professional. In addition, Mort hopes the change of scenery will provide a respite from his struggle to write a first novel that lives up to his impossibly exacting standards. With Mort's relentlessly dismissive opinions of Philippe, and Sue's sharp focus on her career as well as Philippe, their already frayed relationship becomes more strained. Mort's mood lightens when he meets Jo Rojas (Elena Anaya - The Skin I Live In), a kindred spirit whose marriage to tempestuous painter Paco (Sergi López - Pan's Labyrinth) is causing her pain as well. While Mort's personal tastes have sometimes pushed people away, Jo's intellect and shared sensibility draw them together. While Sue spends her days with Philippe, Mort's relationship with Jo deepens.
-It’s a very, very weird movie, and in no way boring. But it seems to have no resemblance to real life as experienced and understood anywhere on this planet. It’s not obnoxious. It is in no way difficult to watch. But it’s from Neptune. 
-We are only a few years removed from Allen’s last good movie, “Wonder Wheel” (2017), so it’s too early to throw the dirt over him as an artist. But to watch “Rifkin’s Festival” and Allen’s previous film, “A Rainy Day in New York” (2019), is to wonder whether this is a filmmaker who has ceased to understand the world. 
-The result seems to be primarily aimed at the director’s own age group — a demographic that hasn’t exactly been leading the box office charge these days and that could render this release from MPI Media Group (who briefly put out A Rainy Day in New York in 2020) DOA at home. 
-“Rifkin’s Festival” has all the nostalgia with none of the clear-eyed perspective, playing like Allen’s visualized all-timer list. We get it: He likes Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, and Luis Buñuel films. Good for him. As critic and professor Mort Rifkin, Shawn, the film’s Allen surrogate, pines for these artists’ heydays and laments the state of the current cinema, which by his own wisdom is shallow. Considering the source, the sentiment is rich. 
-The setup, execution, and payoff are altogether self-serving. There’s no voice in the film to challenge Allen’s theses, which are admittedly muddled. Is he lampooning a certain breed of film critic? Does he identify with that critic? Is he holding the media accountable for lowering the character of film journalism? Or is he just entertaining another fantasy about dusty old men as potential love interests for women decades their junior? There’s no “there” in “Rifkin’s Festival,” just a string of complaints about the artform that Allen helped progress from the 1970s to the 1990s. Fair is fair: It may simply be that Allen has grown weary of the movies, whether he’s making them, watching them, or reading about them, and that “Rifkin’s Festival” is his salvo against them, wrapped around his love for them. 
-This is vintage Allen: a discontented intellectual, artistic older man, in an ailing marriage, struggles with his own neurosis, creative blocks, existential questions and a fear of death, and hopes his attraction to a younger woman will be returned. To be honest, I struggled to make it through the movie. I was frustrated with ideas I’ve seen before in Allen’s films, tropes, dialogue, situations, some of which seemed tone-deaf to me as I was watching it. So, I can’t tell you that this is a terrific film. And yet, when I got to the end of the movie, I was happy I stuck with it. 
Mort Rifkin: Nobody wants to die. Not even for love. Jo Rojas: You wouldn't die for love? Mort Rifkin: I'd frankly prefer not to die for anything. And that includes sickness, old age or choking on a bagel.
-Woody Allen has posted the lowest box office opening weekend of his career with his 49th film, “Rifkin’s Festival,” grossing just $24,000 on Friday and Saturday from 26 theaters, according to box office sources. 
-By comparison, Allen’s previous film “Wonder Wheel” earned approximately $125,000 from five screens on its 3-day opening weekend in 2017 
-As of mid 2022, Rifkin’s Festival has grossed $2.3 million from its worldwide box office. 
-By the time of this open letter, I had appeared in five films directed by Woody Allen. These had been wonderful experiences for me, and I was thrilled to have participated in the work of such a marvelous filmmaker. And although I certainly couldn’t have claimed to have had more than the briefest chats with him on the set, I had a sense of him. I felt a great respect for him — and a great affection.
-I’ve considered the possibility that I’m too biased to consider the subject objectively. As a short New Yorker who’s made his way in the world partly by being vaguely amusing, and as an older male who has experienced various types of good fortune and privilege, I do inevitably identify with Woody Allen to one degree or another. And of course he happens to have given me great opportunities as an actor.
-As this is how I see the situation, you won’t be surprised when I say that I’ve been troubled by the speed with which some of my colleagues in the acting fraternity have distanced themselves from Woody.
-Then fear entered the picture. Many of my colleagues came to feel that to work for Woody Allen, quite apart from whatever the facts might or might not be in the Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow case, would indicate to others that they had no concern for women or for the improvement of the condition of women in the world. And the more the word got around that actors were declining to work for Woody Allen, the more it came to seem to other actors and their agents that anyone who did work for him might well be shunned by everyone in the industry and might never work again, and so agents simply told their clients that Woody Allen was toxic and they should stay far away from him.
-Woody didn’t commit the crime, and when he indeed offered me an important part in his latest film — a part I might well have been offered only because others had decided to turn it down — I eagerly accepted it, and anyone who travels to Europe can see the film. 
-The largest single intake at a U.S. location was seen at Landmark Theaters in Los Angeles, which raked in $2,300 worth of tickets for the movie. 
-Filming ended one week ahead of schedule. The last scene was shot on August 16 in the morning and in the afternoon a charity market was organized in which props and costumes used in the film were put up for sale. The benefits were donated to the local foundation "Zaporeak", dedicated to giving food to refugees on the coasts of Greece. 
-During the game of chess played against Death, the table appears incorrectly rotated. According to the rules of chess, the right square on the bottom row of each player should be white. Both players should know better than to make this mistake. Interestingly, the same mistake appears in the original movie The Seventh Seal by Ingmar Bergman. 
-Once accustomed to receiving splashy festival premieres and major theatrical roll-outs, Woody Allen’s films are now relegated to getting dumped stateside following international premieres and theatrical runs from the countries still willing to prominently showcase the Bronx-born director. 
-It’s tempting to view "Rifkin’s Festival" as a final referendum on a once universally admired filmmaker. In reality, it’s merely another halfhearted effort, the kind we’ve seen from Allen many times before. The question, at this strange juncture in his career, is what comes next. 
-The director Woody Allen has confirmed that he will shoot a new film in Paris this autumn. Speaking to the actor Alec Baldwin over Instagram Live, Allen, 86, suggested that his 50th film – previously said to be a drama similar to 2005’s Match Point – was likely to be his last. 
-“A lot of the thrill is gone,” said Allen. “Now you do a movie and you get a couple of weeks in a movie house, and then it goes to streaming or pay per view. It’s not the same. It’s not as enjoyable to me. 
Life is meaningless, but that doesn't mean it has to be empty. There is a difference.
In the movie, were all your orgasms special effects?
-Jessica Kiang for the New York Times wrote: Dawning awareness of one’s own irrelevance is not quite the same thing as relevance, but it’s a small breakthrough. And it’s infinitely preferable to 2019’s “A Rainy Day in New York,” in which obsessions and behaviors of a musty vintage were forcibly decanted into an anachronistic Gen Z cast. “Rifkin’s Festival” is far less objectionable, and though that is praise so faint it needs smelling salts, with latter-day Woody Allen, we must be thankful for small mercies, and this bauble is, at least, a mercy of the smallest kind.
-Mick LaSalle for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: A good number of great artists spent their lives on bodies of work in which they said more or less the same thing, over and over. Allen’s problem, for a long time, has been that, while the statements are more or less the same, their delivery, and hence their impact, gets weaker over time.
-Jordan Mintzer for the Hollywood Reporter wrote: Woody Allen returns with Rifkin’s Festival, an airy, lazy, though rather likable overseas rom-com served with a dose of melancholia and several large portions of cinematic nostalgia.
-Andrew Crump for The Playlist wrote: For equity’s sake, there are small pleasures to savor here; the picture breezes by, hinges on a twitchy Wallace Shawn performance, and looks lovely, as pictures shot by Vittorio Storaro tend to be. But the connective tissue binding these parts together is stale, atrophied, tossed off with a casual apathy that Allen partisans may call “effortless.”
-Armind White for the National Review wrote: But Allen lost his nerve — or maybe just lost direction. Having conceived Rifkin’s Festival after Philip Roth’s 1995 novel Sabbath’s Theater (about an aged puppeteer and reprobate named Mickey Sabbath who impishly undermines the pretenses of everyone he meets), Allen goes soft on his obvious enemies. The unoriginal plotting seems stymied. It lacks the vengeful motivation of Allen’s last good movie, Deconstructing Harry(1999). Rifkin’s story should rage against the pusillanimous like Roth and the hero of Look Back in Anger.
-Michael O’Sullivan for the Washington Post wrote: “Rifkin’s Festival” explicitly sets us up to expect a story that revisits Allen’s grand fixation on the big questions, or as one character puts it, “What’s it all about?” But in the end, the film doesn’t feel like it’s about very much at all. It’s a throwaway movie, a bit of filler in the Woody Allen canon. Like a dream you’ve half forgotten by the time you get to the breakfast table, it’s neither good enough to make much of an impression or bad enough to completely forget.
-Gary Goldstein for the Los Angeles Times wrote: Woody Allen’s 49th feature, “Rifkin’s Festival,” is arguably his worst. The award-winning and prolific, yet also controversial filmmaker has little if anything new to offer here, rehashing already rehashed themes, attitudes, longings and gripes to dispiritingly diminishing returns…Overall pacing is flaccid and too many scenes peter out when they should punch. But perhaps the movie’s biggest infraction is that there’s hardly a chuckle in it…“Rifkin’s Festival” is simply something to endure — and for completists only.
-William Schwartz for the Book & Film Globe wrote: What makes Rifkin’s Festival worthwhile, though, is that it’s a perspective of the film industry from the ultimate insider, one who may not repent his past crimes, but who at least acknowledges that they happened, and knows that other people acknowledged that they happened too. There’s a genuine love for the cinema, yet a grounded attitude in terms of cinema’s ability to actually change anything, and even an argument that expecting it to change anything is a fool’s errand. Rifkin’s Festival is far from a polemic against the vapidity of lives that revolve entirely around film but it’s as close as to one as we’re ever likely to get from a big name director. It exceeded my expectations, if nothing else, and Wallace Shawn is genuinely great in it. A pity it took #MeToo wrecking Woody Allen’s career to finally get him another leading role.
-42% Rotten Tomatoes ratings as of August 2022