Producers: Letty Aronson and Erika Aronson   Director: Woody Allen   Screenplay: Woody Allen   Cast: Lou de Laâge, Melvil Poupaud, Niels Schneider, Valérie Lemercier, Grágory Gadebois, Guillaume de Tonquédec, Elsa Zylberstein, Anna Laik, Anne Loiret, Sara Martins, Arnaud Viard, William Nadylam, Yannick Choirat, Jeanne Bournaud, Samantha Fuller, Sam Mirhosseini, Philippe Uchan, Emilie Incerti-Formentini, Constance Dollé, Isabelle de Hertogh, Bruno Gouery and Benoit Forgeard   Distributor: MPI International

Grade: B-

One might have presumed that if Woody Allen were ever going to make a movie in a foreign language, it would be Swedish, in homage to his early hero Ingmar Bergman, but instead his fiftieth—and, he’s suggested, perhaps his last—is in French; thus the title, which can be translated as “A Stroke of Luck.”  It’s superior to its immediate predecessors, though it doesn’t come close to equaling Allen’s best.

Returning to themes that resonated more strongly in many of his earlier films (those of the more serious sort), Allen has concocted what amounts to a color film noir, but one that, due to his typically laid-back style, doesn’t generate much genuine menace—and ends with a throwaway twist that’s in line with the title but feels flippant.  (It’s also haphazardly directed by Allen and edited by Alisa Lepselter. To make matters worse, one can easily think of sharper resolutions.)

As in so many classic noirs, the scenario is built on infidelity.   Lou de Laâge is Fanny Fournier, the lovely wife of mysterious Parisian financier Jean (Melvil Poupaud), a much older man who fell in love for her at first sight; wealthy friends in their social circle refer to her as a trophy wife, and at times she sees herself in that role, too.  Rumors also circulate about how the unexplained disappearance of Jean’s former business partner benefited his bankroll.  Nonetheless Fanny and Jean seem happy together; her mother Camille (Valérie Lemercier), who visits them occasionally, remarks on how solicitous of her Jean is, and he showers his wife with gifts so expensive they embarrass her.

Things change, however, when Fanny is recognized by Alain Aubert (Niels Schneider), an old classmate from the French school they attended in New York, as she walks to her job at a prestigious auction house.  He confesses that he was mad about her back then, but too shy ever to approach her.  Now he’s an author temporarily staying in Paros to finish a book.  They begin to enjoy lunches together in the park, and before long he’s invited her up to his rented garret—shades of ”La bohème”!—and they’re having a passionate affair.  Fanny begins to think seriously about leaving Jean for him.

But Jean gets suspicious and hires an investigator to discreetly determine what his wife is up to.  He learns about the affair and contacts the men he’d employed to dispose of his troublesome partner (yes, he’s a rotter) to do the same with Alain.  Initially Fanny takes Alain’s abrupt departure to be just another instance of how unlucky she’d been in love before being wooed by Jean, but after Camille hears the rumors about his ex-partner’s disappearance, she begins to wonder whether he might have had a hand in Alain’s as well.  A lover of detective stories, she undertakes to investigate.

From this point Allen’s script frankly deteriorates.  Implausibilities begin to proliferate.  Two involve desk drawers, one containing a calling card unaccountably left where it can easily be found by an amateur shamus, and the other something important left behind in an apartment cleaned out by villains.  In a third lapse, a supposedly canny P.I. not only clumsily drops information to an obviously unreliable visitor, but then withholds the fact from his client.  And a murder scheme concocted to tie up loose ends is so utterly inept that one doubts it could have succeeded even if that final twist didn’t intervene.

It doesn’t help that Allen’s direction fails him at important points.  One is the encounter between Alain and Jean’s hirelings, which is meant, one supposes, to be suspenseful but merely seems both fainthearted and needlessly protracted.  The other is the forest finale, so sloppily staged and cut that it comes across as slapdash.

Still, the picture is amiable enough, especially when it doesn’t try too hard to be clever, and the four leads give nice performances, even if they don’t remotely equal those of the stars in classic Hollywood noirs.  The large supporting cast is also fine.  The movie also looks quite lovely.  The French locations are often gorgeous, the park sequences boasting an autumnal glow captured in veteran Vittorio Storaro’s lustrous widescreen images; Veronique Melery’s production design and Sonia Grande’s costumes exude understated elegance.

No one will confuse “Coup de chance” with “The Postman Always Rings Twice” or “Double Indemnity.”  But while it’s second-rate noir, it’s still engaging, and proves that Allen can still pull off a reasonably enjoyable film—which he hasn’t done in a while.