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    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Guess Who's Back?


    I know you've heard it already, but Woody Allen's "back" (as in, cool again) with his new film Match Point. I'll admit that I haven't quite gotten over the fact that the film is set in London, not Manhattan, but I'm still quite looking forward to it.

    The Observer gives the old guy 5 pages for his 70th birthday:

    “I’m not intellectual,” Mr. Allen told The Observer. “I’m the guy that you see at home with the beer watching the Knicks on television, or the football game. I’m not sitting up in bed with my Kierkegaard or reading Dostoyevsky.”

    For a moment, all those messy, sexy women in his films—who never seem to be able to choose a profession but always want “to write,” who read e.e. cummings when they’re told to by their more sophisticated lovers, who fall in love with Woody Allen because he’s their teacher—seemed less silly. In fact, he’s not unfamiliar with the inferiority complex. “I found myself—I don’t know why—attracted to what I guess you would call these kind of uncommercial-looking women,” he said of his teenage self. “They all were highly literate. They knew poetry and classical music and opera and novels and philosophy. And I was a major illiterate, and I couldn’t hold my own with those women at all. For the first time in my life I had genuine motivation toward education.”


    Sure, there were silly women in some of his films, but the idea that he's sexist never made sense to me. Everyone in his films was a mess. He was the only filmmaker whose work I saw growing up who made real women characters. Women with intellectual lives. Women characters whose very existence didn't insult me. Even the young women weren't just ornamentation.

    IN 1979, JOAN DIDION WROTE A PIECE for The New York Review of Books called “Letter from Manhattan” about Interiors, Manhattan and Annie Hall. The cool Ms. Didion had very little affection or sympathy for the hand-wringing, self-absorbed protagonists of Mr. Allen’s movies and wasn’t shy about challenging the reflexive love for Allen movies that she had observed. She quoted Mr. Allen in Manhattan: “People in Manhattan are constantly creating these real unnecessary neurotic problems for themselves that keep them from dealing with more terrifying unsolvable problems about the universe.” ...

    In her essay, Ms. Didion scratched at the Woody glaze by attacking the famous litany at the end of Manhattan, when the Allen character lists his reasons to live: “Groucho Marx, Willie Mays, Louis Armstrong’s ‘Potato Head Blues’… every experience it evokes is essentially passive. This list of Woody Allen’s is the ultimate consumer report.”


    1. Didion completely misses the point: the last thing on the list is Tracy, his teenage love.
    2. Is listening to Louis Armstrong's "Potato Head Blues" really "passive"? Is the experience of great art ever passive? And isn't this list the list of things that engaged him to the degree that it makes him want to be alive? Notice that "getting a new TV" wasn't on the list or "eventually being able to buy a better car" or anything like that- that's consumerism.

    She wrote that it “suggests a new class in America, a subworld of people rigid with apprehension that they will die wearing the wrong sneaker, naming the wrong symphony, preferring Madame Bovary.”

    The fact that Didion could write that shows that she's part of this class (yes, if you are reviewing anything for the NY Times, you are a cultural arbiter) and this class was never new. In fact, the phenomenon she discusses is class.

    Fuck Didion.

    Anyway, I'm so glad that Woody Allen's back. His works were some of my reasons for living, growing up in Midwest. I longed for a community of people who cared enough about art that it was their reason for living.

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