Sunday, 20 November 2011

Woody Allen: A Documentary

Allen’s persistence in using the one and only typewriter of his life, and in practicing cut-and-staple editing are certainly curious, quaint, idiosyncratic, even endearing; but they’re also proof on the wing of two of Allen’s lifelong qualities—untimeliness and hermeticism—as well as of the enduring struggle in his films between writing and experience.

(On Manhattan) Nothing new except the crabs, nothing young except Tracy (played by Mariel Hemingway), the seventeen-year-old high-school girl whom Isaac had been dating and had left. What looked like a celebration of the life of the city was, rather, an aestheticizing glorification of the life of the mind—of Allen’s mind.

His aura was his protective bubble, and it remained intact until 1992, when word broke regarding his romance with his longtime partner Mia Farrow’s adoptive daughter, Soon-Yi Previn (who is now his wife). The apocalyptically furious “Husbands and Wives” puts the turmoil of the time onscreen. When Allen lost his bubble, he lost his city, and, with it, he lost his artistic way—dramatizing it in a remarkable movie that Weide doesn’t mention, “Hollywood Ending,” in which Allen plays a director who, on the day he is slated to start shooting his big comeback picture, becomes suddenly blind and tries to get through the shoot nonetheless. (Along with all of “Zelig” and the opening two-train sequence of “Stardust Memories,” it’s one of Allen’s great metaphors.)

Weide’s film includes a clip of Allen, from 1967, discussing his occupational hazard: “I can’t not write jokes. I write jokes like normal conversation,” but his later films trade the scintillating verbal intelligence and philosophical humor of his classic films of the seventies and eighties—as well as his own dominating presence—for a quickly traced realization of the ideas that have been his lifelong obsession. There’s a remarkable pair of clips in which Allen’s mother explains that he was a cheerful boy until the age of five, when he seemed to become bitter—and Allen explains that, around the age of five, he discovered that he and everyone he loved were going to die. The jokes about mortality that run through his films become serious as he takes his aging seriously. An apparent lark such as “Scoop” is, among other things, a vision of his own death; and the confrontation with final things has deepened and darkened the best of his later films.

Meanwhile, the box-office success of “Midnight in Paris,” though incidental to its merit, reflects Allen’s belatedly acquired status as a survivor, as a prophet of a now-distant past. The onrush of days flattens the perspective of history (...) and the historical regression that the movie comically dramatizes fuses with the virtual offscreen image of Allen himself as a living herald of those days and of the moral authority that they convey.

No comments :

Post a Comment