November 23, 2011

Woody Allen's 2 super-powers.

Over the last couple days, we watched the lengthy PBS documentary about Woody Allen. I know a lot of my readers haven't been watching his movies and think of him only in terms of his sexual misdeeds. Exclude that topic for the comments on this new post. All that has been said. Noted. If you must say that again, go to the link above and put it in that comments thread. I want to say something new, based on the documentary, which is overwhelmingly about Allen's work. If you don't know his movies or don't want to talk about the ideas about writing that I'm going to raise, please don't comment in this new thread.

Woody Allen has directed a movie a year — almost precisely — every year since 1969. He's an astounding movie-making machine. It's really quite bizarre. He's a monument not so much to hard work, but to consistently cranking out work, much of it quite excellent. As a writer, he's a lot like a blogger. He just keeps going. It's what he does, quite aligned with living itself. I love that.

Now, it suddenly occurred to me that his achievement is propelled by 2 super-powers — one which he knew he had from his teenage years and another that he discovered through Diane Keaton. (I'll try to finds the specific lines in the documentary that support my theory and transcribe them for you, but I don't have time for that now).

Super-power #1: Automatically thinking of one-line jokes. It's harder for him to stop his thoughts from taking the form of jokes than to think of them (he says). As a teenager, he got a job making $20,000 a year writing jokes. He had to write 50 jokes a day. It wasn't difficult for him.

Super-power #2: As a man, taking the woman's perspective. We see this power burst forth in his fabulous movie "Annie Hall." Allen gives credit to Diane Keaton, whom he worked with in the earlier films "Sleeper" and "Love and Death," for getting him interested in taking on the feeling of being inside the woman's head and writing from there. In this position, he experienced a flow of ideas, that let him write wonderful scenes for actresses, like this one, from "Hannah and Her Sisters," which is used in the documentary as an illustration of his style of writing from the woman's perspective:



You can say that he doesn't really achieve the female perspective or that women aren't really quite like that, but that isn't the point. The point is that his sense of being inside a woman's head empowers him to produce writing that often works for the viewer, including many, many women who love and identify with scenes like that. He's a man, with male thoughts, projecting those thoughts into women's minds. What a powerful force that is, the male with something of his own that he wants to put inside the woman. It makes the urge to write like the sexual urge. That's creative flow. If you can put that force behind your writing... it's a super-power.

85 comments:

Dave said...

I love his older, lighter fare like "Bananas"

rhhardin said...

It's indistinguishable from soap opera for me.

Just a data point.

MadisonMan said...

I think it's interesting that you credit Keaton with morphing Allen's movie into something that changes the viewpoint. People do come into one's life and change things.

Meade:Althouse::Keaton:Allen

E.M. Davis said...

I would love for him to do an action movie.

It could be a spoof, for sure, but something that departs from his tired comfort zone.

Whatever Works was awful.

MayBee said...

You can say that he doesn't really achieve the female perspective or that women aren't really quite like that, but that isn't the point. The point is that his sense of being inside a woman's head empowers him to produce writing that often works for the viewer, including many, many women who love and identify with scenes like that.

I can't imagine there's a writer in the world who doesn't put himself in his characters' heads, regardless of gender.

prairie wind said...

What a powerful force that is, the male with something of his own that he wants to put inside the woman. It makes the urge to write like the sexual urge.

Interesting. It sounds cool, anyway. Does that mean that the urge to write for women is also sexual? The urge to take men inside? I would argue--as if the whole sexual metaphor is good--that a woman would write from the male perspective better than a man could write from the female perspective because she is absorbing the man in. The man is inserting himself into the woman.

As I said...as if that metaphor is good. I don't really think it is much more than pretty words, though. Some days it seems obvious that you and Meade had a little morning fun. More power to you.

Ann Althouse said...

"I can't imagine there's a writer in the world who doesn't put himself in his characters' heads, regardless of gender."

Well, it's something you try to do, like you might try to write jokes, but do you have it as a super-power?

Ann Althouse said...

"Interesting. It sounds cool, anyway. Does that mean that the urge to write for women is also sexual? The urge to take men inside? I would argue--as if the whole sexual metaphor is good--that a woman would write from the male perspective better than a man could write from the female perspective because she is absorbing the man in. The man is inserting himself into the woman."

But you're a guy saying that, right? What is the experience of the female sexual urge? Is it a desire to absorb the male? You think we feel like sponges?!

pm317 said...

I am not sure what the woman's perspective in that video is. Can you elaborate? Do you mean such conversations never take place between male siblings?

Robert Cook said...

"I would love for him to do an action movie.

"It could be a spoof, for sure, but something that departs from his tired comfort zone."


One could argue that his early film "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" is just that: he took a Japanese spy movie or something and dubbed in English dialogue that he wrote and which changed the motives and goals of the characters. I've seen just a few moments of it on tv, so I can't say how well it works, overall.

Robert Cook said...

"I can't imagine there's a writer in the world who doesn't put himself in his characters' heads, regardless of gender."

There are plenty of writers who don't; they're called "bad writers." (Plenty of bad writers get published.)

timmaguire42 said...

Your "Super-power #2" makes it difficult to comply with your exclusionary rule. His treatment of women in his movies make it difficult to separate his work from his messy personal life (particularly how he kept getting older but his girlfriends didn't).

I would call him a very uneven film maker. Probably 20% of his movies are classics or at least have flashes of brilliance (Sweet and Low Down deserves more recognition than it's gotten, IMO), about 40% are dreck, the other 40% fair to middling. His recent movies have all been tired and flimsy.

Writing from inside the woman's head? I've never noticed that particular talent in his scripts.

Neither has any woman I've watched a Woody Allen movie with. Possibly because they're too busy being appalled by the age of his character's girlfriend.

rhhardin said...

The clip does show why brain scans to detect terrorists at airports won't work on women.

prairie wind said...

But you're a guy saying that, right? What is the experience of the female sexual urge? Is it a desire to absorb the male? You think we feel like sponges?!

Uh...woman here. Didn't mean to type in such a low voice. I definitely don't feel like a sponge, so I chose my words poorly. A man putting something of himself into a woman, though...how does that help him write from a woman's perspective? That sounds like a way to write woman who think with a man's perspective.

I don't know that Woody Allen wrote women who think with a man's perspective but did he write women who think with Woody Allen's perspective?

I should watch Hannah again to see what Woody Allen's perspective is/was on infidelity.

The Purple Rose of Cairo is a Woody Allen movie that I love. Maybe because he isn't IN the movie.

Original Mike said...

Is "80% of life is just showing up" his?

Scott M said...

I'm a huge fan of the one and only stand-up album Allen, but I'm definitely a pre-Annie Hall Allen movie fan, with the possible exception of a Mid-summer Night's Sex Comedy.

MayBee said...

Well, it's something you try to do, like you might try to write jokes, but do you have it as a super-power?

If it's the *sense* of being inside the other gender's head, I would say all writers have that super power.


In fact, I would say most people have that super power. We are very good at imagining we know exactly what someone else is thinking.

Irene said...

It comes across best, for me, when Diane Keaton sings "Seems Like Old Times" at the end of Annie Hall.

stan said...

Ann,

I think it would be interesting if you would expand a bit on what you see in his writing for actresses to perform. I had a notion once to write a book that would have required me to write dialogue where women discussed their husbands/boyfriends. As a male, there is always a feeling that one is just guessing.

PatCA said...

That's a totally female conversation! And I liked that movie a lot. Hershey BTW is having an affair with Mia's husband so that adds to her tension in the scene.

Oligonicella said...

It's not really that hard to write a woman character - providing you have been around and observed women.

Like men, they're not that complex and difficult to figure out.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am not sure what the woman's perspective in that video is. Can you elaborate? Do you mean such conversations never take place between male siblings?"

It doesn't matter. He is fired up to produce writing by feeling that he is there, inside women's heads.

J said...

You're expecting an analysis of modern cinema (such as Allen films) from the klansmen and mormons hangin' at the A-house hardware store? Optimistic, A.

Zelig was nearly entertaining and not as schlocky as..the Annie Hall era ("Hannah" & etc also sort of ..zionist-sentimental IMO).

Oligonicella said...

AA --

But you're a guy saying that, right? What is the experience of the female sexual urge? Is it a desire to absorb the male? You think we feel like sponges?!"

prairie wind --

"Uh...woman here."

Althouse nailed by her own ridicule.

William said...

In the documentary, it was pointed out that his father cracked a century and his mother lived into her nineties. There's a good chance that Woody Allen will outlive many here. Mortality also has its own sense of humor.....In any event, Allen's asphyxiating sense of mortality has inspired any number of fine scenes in his movies. His jokes about death have always been more enlivening than his jokes about sex.... He has finally reached an age where his worries about mortality are appropriate, but an old man's jokes about death lack the comic quality of those of a young man. In the end, time has very little comic timing.

Ann Althouse said...

"Uh...woman here. Didn't mean to type in such a low voice. I definitely don't feel like a sponge, so I chose my words poorly. A man putting something of himself into a woman, though...how does that help him write from a woman's perspective? That sounds like a way to write woman who think with a man's perspective."

Sorry to mis-guess your sex. I'm really only talking about the ability to write reasonably well and prolifically. Where do you get the fuel? Where's the raw material and the energy? He went for: Go into the woman's head and write from there, and, doing that, he found immense power that has kept him going for 40 years, writing constantly. He's projecting. He's not really a the woman. In fact, he brings all his man-stuff to the task. It's productive! It's creative.

"I don't know that Woody Allen wrote women who think with a man's perspective but did he write women who think with Woody Allen's perspective?"

It's offspring of metaphorical mind sex.

"I should watch Hannah again to see what Woody Allen's perspective is/was on infidelity."

Me too. It's full of material. The males are not flattered, by the way. And they are hilarious. Michael Caine and Max Von Sydow. The little clips of Von Sydow in the documentary made me want to see that part again.

"The Purple Rose of Cairo is a Woody Allen movie that I love. Maybe because he isn't IN the movie."

Did you know Michael Keaton was the original choice to play the Jeff Daniels role? Keaton was fired because he seemed too contemporary and it didn't fit the 1930s era.

BarrySanders20 said...

Oh the neurosis. I don't want to be inside women's heads. At least not these women's heads or anyone like them.

Can't I just eat my waffles?

Neurotic New York man understands and can project thoughts of neurotic New York women. Bleh.

Ann Althouse said...

"Your "Super-power #2" makes it difficult to comply with your exclusionary rule."

You should see my law school exams. I frame the question to get you to write in the place where it will be most interesting and productive. And on the exams, you only get credit for answering the question asked. Showing that you understand the question and that rule and can follow it is part of how you give value and deserve credit.

Remember, I'm here to help!

Steven said...

I can't help but think about a book I read recently by Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows Of An American, where she writes from a male perspective. I don't think it's a superhuman ability, but then again, I didn't realize that, as a male, I think through everything from a sex standpoint.

Scott M said...

Sorry to mis-guess your sex. I'm really only talking about the ability to write reasonably well and prolifically. Where do you get the fuel?

I wish I knew, personally, how to tap into that. When inspiration does strike, it's a very impressive phenomena. The words literally write themselves and you're mind moves much faster than you could ever hope to type. It's exhilarating and, sometimes, exhausting. What really sucks is to have it hit when you're stuck in traffic. But there's an app for that.

As much as pure inspiration of the type mentioned above is so much different than the everyday experiences of everyday people, the prolific amount of good work that Allen has done in his career intuits that not only has he mastered the ability to tap into that inspiration, where you literally feel like you're taking dictation from someone else, but has an uncanny, if not superhuman, ability to go back to that tap again and again and again.

There are many good writers. Anyone can be if they write about something they are passionate about, stick somewhat to grammar rules (lol) and have something akin to a personal style. Prolific writing requires something extra...something beyond what ordinary people, especially non-writers and non-readers, could even contemplate.

prairie wind said...

Sorry to mis-guess your sex.

Take THAT, Woody Allen! I'm writing from the man's perspective...or at least one reader thinks so.

I must have absorbed something when I got inside a man's head.

Michael Keaton? Jeff Daniels is the better choice but now I want to watch Night Shift again.

MayBee said...

Prolific writing requires something extra...something beyond what ordinary people, especially non-writers and non-readers, could even contemplate.

Wow, ScottM. I adore you, but I really think even ordinary people have the superpower to contemplate the gifts of the prolific writer.

MadisonMan said...

He is fired up to produce writing by feeling that he is there, inside women's heads.

I can easily see that dialog occurring between me and my brothers, although I'm not sure who would play which part. WA is there, inside someone he perceives to be a woman, but he's still writing words that could come out of anyone's mouth as they talk to siblings.

Would Hamish and her Brothers have worked as a film? I doubt it -- Woody Allen doesn't seem too talented in casting men. It's like he uses films as a vehicle to meet women. He's probably not alone in that regard.

William said...

Woody Allen lives in my neighborhood, albeit in a different dimension. I heard two guys discussing meeting him on the street. They were aware of his germophobia. They ran up to him and insisted on shaking his hand in a congratulatory way. One guy made a point of covering a cough with his hand before proffering it. Woody shoke their hands and responded to their praise with polite graciousness.

Scott M said...

Wow, ScottM. I adore you, but I really think even ordinary people have the superpower to contemplate the gifts of the prolific writer.

Agreed. That missive was written by a poorly-skilled hack that logged in under my nom de plume. What he should have said was uncontemplatable(?) was the ability involved with prolific writing. Even then, sure, it can be contemplated...but how effectively?

(notice the attempt to write my way out of that...or not...no, don't notice it)

Christopher in MA said...

Well, I recommended it on the other Allen thread and I'll recommend it here - "Radio Days," from 1987. It's a very sweet and funny remembrance of his early days listening to the radio. It stars Mia, Diane Keaton, Josh Mostel, Danny Aiello, Wallace Shawn, Michael Tucker and Julie Kavner, with Allen as the narrator.

There's a wonderful scene where Farrow, as an aspiring radio star, witnesses a mob hit. While riding with Aiello (who has to go back to his mother's house for more bullets), the two of them find out they grew up in the same neighborhood. Aiello says, "Gee, I never meet anybody from the old neighborhood. Now the first time I do, I gotta kill them!"

As far as writing, Cook and Scott have it right. A lot of bad writers get published (even more now that self-publishing is easier than ever - see my website, www.kissmemyfool.com, ). And when the spirit speaks through you, with words coming into your head faster than you can put them on paper - it's an extraordinary feeling. To be able to keep that going all the time, as Allen is able to do, is remarkable and about the only thing I envy him.

The Crack Emcee said...

A man thinking like a woman is a deficiency, not a super power.

MayBee said...

(notice the attempt to write my way out of that...or not...no, don't notice it)

LOL!

traditionalguy said...

The Creative Force is female, while the Boundary Setting Force is male.

Mixing them together sets off the full life experience that The Creator of men and women planned for Adam and Eve.

Scott M said...

The Creative Force is female, while the Boundary Setting Force is male.

Spielberg's got a pretty thick beard for a chick. Just sayin'...

Saint Croix said...

I know a lot of my readers haven't been watching his movies and think of him only in terms of his sexual misdeeds. Exclude that topic for the comments on this new post.

Althouse, your commmand conflicts with this observation:

What a powerful force that is, the male with something of his own that he wants to put inside the woman. It makes the urge to write like the sexual urge.

This is true for many, many artists. The urge to create is similar to the urge to have a baby. It's a sublimated sexuality. You are creating something out of thin air. In fact a lot of artists use their art to work out their sexual issues. It's very common.

So to say that we can't discuss sex in regard to Allen's work, you're knocking out a huge percentage of his work!

Here's my review of Hannah and Her Sisters:

"It’s a movie about three sisters. And Michael Caine goes from one sister to the other sister and back to the first sister. And Woody Allen goes from one sister to another sister. The men in this movie really love those sisters. That’s what family is in this movie, the sisters. And the men in this movie are on the outside, isolated from intimacy and love. Woody Allen is a doubter, an infidel, the master of infidelity, trying to get in, trying to believe. He jumps from faith to faith like he jumps from sister to sister. He’s a bad man but he wants a family, he wants to believe. And then at the end of the film there’s a miracle. What a beautiful, beautiful film."

Allen is dealing with sex and religion. Not just sex, but doubt and infidelity. And he ties that in to religious infidelity. And also there is an unmistakable hint of sexual taboo in his work. It's sister-swapping. You can see how the man who made this work would have an affair with his wife's daughter.

Conservatives make a mistake when they dismiss Allen, who provokes and makes you think about sex. He is, at his best, one of our finest filmmakers.

Scott M said...

Althouse, your commmand conflicts with this observation:

When I command my two-year-old to do something, he just sits there. I have to commmand him in order to get him moving.

J said...

Uh...woman here. Didn't mean to type in such a low voice.

well, yes Miss A, Byro-Sorepaw, your AZ-acidhead troll, IS a woman, tho trapped in a male- monkey's body (and..muy pequeno, rumors are).

J said...

Allen---wannabe Ingmar Bergman (Bergman meets...Schecky Green??).

That's about it. Was any Allen product worthy of....Wild Strawberries or..the 7th Seal? Nyet.

ricpic said...

I have to agree with rh that the Hannah and Her Sisters clip is pure soap opera, which is of course seen not as soap opera but as heavy stuff by the upper middle class female audience Allen panders to. Why? Because it's about THEM!

SunnyJ said...

In the theme of the day, my thoughts on Allen and those that revere....Occupy your own head!

It felt too neurotic then and it's even worse watching it again. No wonder he's germiphobic, with all that invasive body/mind stuff going on!

Chip S. said...

Maybe it's a superpower, and maybe it's a teachable skill.

The Crack Emcee said...

"He's a [physically weak] man, with [physically weak] male thoughts, projecting those [physically weak] thoughts into women's minds. What a powerful force that is, the [physically weak] male with something of his own that he wants to put inside the woman. It makes the urge to write like the sexual urge."

Until women encounter such a man, then they reject him, sexually, for a stronger man.

On the other hand, under feminism, they also reject the strong man for the physically (and/or psychologically) weak who will put up with such bullshit.

Woody Allen is also famous for his neuroticism, right?

Since you don't want us to bring his personal life into it, I won't, but, if you ask me, you can't really critique his work accurately - especially in the manner you're attempting here - without it. I don't think anyone being honest will deny his work has suffered since the day he took up with Mia Farrow's daughter - that's significant to any artistic analysis.

There are many artists whose work can be looked at on it's own, but, like Tiger Woods, Woody Allen isn't one of them. Any attempt to do so is a deliberate attempt to deceive.

But - hey - that's feminism for you,...

Scott M said...

Maybe it's a superpower, and maybe it's a teachable skill.

One word crops up again and again when reading the personal comments of prolific authors...discipline.

Chip S. said...

One word crops up again and again when reading the personal comments of prolific authors...discipline.

Very true. As Woody said in the documentary, he keeps pumping out quantity in the hope that quality will emerge. It was interesting how he resisted the unsubtle suggestion of his producer that he cut his rate of output in half--presumably out of the notion that there's a quantity/quality tradeoff.

I wonder how Monet decided that he'd painted enough haystacks.

Julie C said...

One of my favorite scenes from (I think) either Annie Hall or Manhattan, when he and Diane Keaton are seeing therapists about their relationship and the therapist asks, how often do you have sex? Woody answers, hardly at all - only two or three times a week and Diane answers, oh all the time, two or three times a week.

That pretty much sums up the sexes right there.

Titus said...

I loved the documentary.

I especially loved some of the actors going to his office and meeting with him and being asked to leave after 10 seconds.

Also, recasting parts (Michael Keaton for Jeff Daniels) in the middle of the movie.

He is amazing.

I also love the fact that he doesn't get into any of the Hollywood bullshit.

tits.

Saint Croix said...

When I command my two-year-old to do something, he just sits there. I have to commmand him in order to get him moving.

LOL. Now I have to wonder if that's a typo, or some kind of Freudian sexxx thing.

Craig said...

Annie Hall was from Chippewa Falls. There's a one-liner for you.

Titus said...

One of his long time Producing Partners played the Uncle in Moonstruck. I am pretty sure he was the uncle.

I never knew he was married to Louise Lasser. Was she Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?

I loved her in Requiem For A Dream.

Penelope Cruz thought she was going to get fired while making the movie with her.

What about all the female leads who get Oscars from working in his movies? What's that all about.

Scott M said...

What's that all about.

What's with the Carol Harmomn impersonation? Make with the irrelevant log references and don't skimp on the nasty.

Craig said...

Writing is easier when you know it's going to be published in the New Yorker just because you wrote it.

Craig said...

My all time favorite was What's Up, Tiger Lilly.

ricpic said...

Titus said...

He [Woody Allen] is amazing.

Finally went ahead with that sex change, Titus?

ricpic said...

I wonder how Monet decided that he'd painted enough haystacks.

Probably ran out of alizarin crimson or cadmium yellow, was running low on supple brushes, went into Paris to restock and when he got back to the country found that in the timeout the impulse had died. These great artistic decisions are usually a lot more prosaic than laymen think.

yashu said...

Thanks for the link to the doc; will watch.

With Saint Croix here; I'm a "right-winger" (I guess you could call me that) and an unabashed Woody Allen fan.

Re writing "from inside the woman's head," you can see clear examples of that in some of his less well-known films, like Another Woman and Interiors and September-- not great films, but at least interesting (to me). Female characters are the protagonists, centers of consciousness here. These tend to be more gloomy films, heavy on the Bergman & Chekhov influence (e.g. copying entire scenes & swathes of dialogue from B & C)-- probably not a coincidence.

Hypothesis: the "tone" of Woody's imagined/ projected female subjectivity tends to the Bergmanesque-- brooding, melancholic, depressive; whereas the tone of films centered on a male subject (relating to women as inscrutable others) is more often funny & absurdist, Felliniesque (cf. Stardust Memories).

Saint Croix said...

I don't think anyone being honest will deny his work has suffered since the day he took up with Mia Farrow's daughter - that's significant to any artistic analysis.

There has unmistakably been a drop-off in his work. Here's what I had to say about Whatever Works:

"Atrocious. Larry David comes across as a senile old man who has escaped from a rest home and he's stolen a camera. Grumpy Old Man on Prunes, that's what it should be called. Of course, Woody Allen has done unlikable before. In Deconstructing Harry, the main character is mean and unlikable and funny as hell. This is mean and spiteful and pathetic. The writing is shallow and two dimensional, like Daisy Duke has invaded a Neil Simon play. Imagine a teenage Foghorn Leghorn with breasts and pigtails trying to seduce Walter Matthau. Now imagine the director has blindfolded himself. It's as if Woody Allen has never actually seen an acting performance before. It's like he's Ed Wood now. He can only afford to do one take and he has to shoot the whole movie in four days. On a budget of forty bucks. This is by the guy who did Manhattan? And granted, there was an underage girl in Manhattan, too, but at least there was only a 30-year age difference in that one. Watching Ellie Mae hit on Grandpa, oh my. It's a Harlequin romance for dirty old men. I swear, Larry David is trying to be older than he actually is. Like the older and crankier and uglier he is, the more attractive he is to young girls. What a shoddy, stupid, ridiculous film. I'm kinda bewildered. I've never seen a truly bad Woody Allen movie before. This is a first for me. There were signs this was coming, though. Fake scenes in Hollywood Ending and Scoop, regurgitated plots in Small Time Crooks and Match Point. His writing has been getting worse for a while. I've noticed more and more jokes that are forced and unfunny, like a really old comic sweating in the Catskills. But this film indicates a free-fall in talent and skill. It's so bad I doubt I'll watch another one."

That actually wasn't true. I went on to pay money to see Midnight in Paris (mediocre).

He's done some interesting work after his sex scandal. I think Curse of the Jade Scorpion is light, breezy, and a lot of fun. Deconstructing Harry is hateful, spiteful, and awesome.

I put the drop-off to age more than anything. I don't see Allen as a tortured artist at all. Like a lot of artists, he's a weird combination of sensitive and callous.

But you might be right, maybe it's the sex scandal. Woody Allen has always worked with a muse. Diane Keaton, and Mia Farrow before that. And they each had a strong influence on his work.

Now he's working without a muse. So he's still talented. He can still draw on a sexual and emotional history, a knowledge of the opposite sex. But his truly best work--Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters--really depend on Keaton and Farrow.

Keaton did a movie with him right after the scandal, Murder in Manhattan (mediocre).

It's not the woman. It's his response to the woman, his emotional reactions, his feelings for her, that's what gets worked into his art. And his best art is suffused with this feeling. Without it, his stuff is just good or interesting or fun or okay or really bad. What he hasn't had in a good long time is genius. But his best work is truly brilliant, in my opinion.

Gene said...

Woody Allen says that "80% of success is showing up." Amen.

nevadabob said...

Your support of Hollywood pedophiles (and Woody Allen isn't the only one) is really sickening, Ann.

yashu said...

Nice analysis of Allen's relation to his muses, Saint Croix.

Further support for my hypothesis (re the tone of female subjectivity vs. male subjectivity in WA's films) just occurred to me: Melinda & Melinda. The tragic story is focalized around Melinda; the comedic story is focalized around Will Ferrell's character (with Melinda as the object of desire).

Vicky Christina Barcelona's female protagonists have more of a balance of light & dark. But VCB has an element which you don't see (I don't think?) in the earlier films: the omniscient narrator (a male voice) commenting authoritatively on the characters' foibles from a detached psychologist's perch-- like the narrator of an 18th/19th century novel-- rather than strictly "from the inside" of a character's mind. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger has that narratorial voice too.

Freeman Hunt said...

I just want to know why I can't find Mighty Aphrodite through any of the instant rental services.

The Crack Emcee said...

Titus,

I never knew he was married to Louise Lasser. Was she Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman?

Yes.

I loved her in Requiem For A Dream.

Good movie.

Ass.

The Crack Emcee said...

Saint Croix,

Deconstructing Harry was a pleasant surprise.

Freeman Hunt said...

I bet all those who hate Allen's life would love Crimes and Misdemeanors. Try it!

The Crack Emcee said...

If he was as honest with himself as he was in that movie, he'd probably make a comeback. Not that I care:

Disgusting man.

Freeman Hunt said...

I know a prolific and talented writer. He is somewhat the opposite though. Women appear nowhere in his writing.

The Crack Emcee said...

Freeman Hunt,

I bet all those who hate Allen's life would love Crimes and Misdemeanors. Try it!

Saw it - loved it - but he's still a disgusting man.

yashu said...

Agree with Saint Croix & Crack on Deconstructing Harry. Brutally honest about himself as a man. The ugly truth. Also interesting on the relationship of art & life.

Also, re the frisson of "sexual taboo" in Hannah & Her Sisters prefiguring his "affair with his wife's daughter": you also see this theme in Husbands And Wives (Woody as professor tempted by his young student, played by Juliette Lewis). There's a lot of revealing stuff in this movie-- made precisely during the time of his affair with Soon-Yi. (According to Wikipedia, Farrow discovered the affair the same year this movie came out, 1992.) Anyway, it's irresistible to see in it a psychological portrait of WA & his crumbling relationship to Farrow (who plays his wife).

Great movie, IMO. Owned by Judy Davis & Sydney Pollack.

Crack, yes, Allen's a disgusting man-- but he still makes good (sometimes great) movies. And he's more honest than most, in his art, about the ugliness inside him.

The Crack Emcee said...

yashu,

Crack, yes, Allen's a disgusting man-- but he still makes good (sometimes great) movies. And he's more honest than most, in his art, about the ugliness inside him.

Yeah but, like Polanski, we let him off too easily. I get attacked more harshly on this blog - for defending goodness as a concept worth upholding - than they do for the crimes of rape and betrayal (Yes, in my book, betrayal is a crime,...ask anyone driven mad, or almost driven mad, by it). I love art - I even love THEIR art - but there's a clear line between art and life, and no amount of talent in one should act as a cover for depravity in the other.

Woody Allen has no singular claim to greatness - there are other filmmakers, many who haven't even gotten a chance for standing in line behind him, who haven't hurt anybody and can still show/tell us something:

I'd prefer to let them have their say as he rots, alone, for forgetting he's never been the center of the universe.

Kirk Parker said...

Crimes and Misdemeanors is a jewel, but Crack is right that creating such a work says nothing about Allen's worth as a person. From a discussion I heard a while back, Richard Rodger's daughter is supposed to have quipped (quoting from memory here), "It's hard to understand how so much wonderful music came out of such a horrible person".

Freeman Hunt said...

I've never thought it was fair to lump Allen in with Polanski though. Their transgressions are not of the same class.

Eric said...

I've never thought it was fair to lump Allen in with Polanski though. Their transgressions are not of the same class.

Starting with one being very illegal and the other not.

Saint Croix said...

here's my top 20 of Allen's works.

A+
Manhattan (1979)
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)

A
Sleeper (1973)
Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
Annie Hall (1977)

A-
What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

B+
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

B
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (1972)
Oedipus Wrecks (1989)
Bananas (1971)
Celebrity (1998)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

B-
Stardust Memories (1980)
Love and Death (1975)
Match Point (2005)
A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy (1982)

I look at this list, and they're almost all comedies. Allen's unusual in that he's won Oscars and gotten a lot of respect, in a field (comedy) that has none. He pulls this off by making a lot of "smart" comedies, and making references to other artists. Using Gershwin music, for instance, or name-dropping a philosopher. This gives his work a classy vibe. But mostly he's funny and dark and honest and a really interesting artist.

That is a long career, 45 years and counting.

yashu said...

Crack,

Interestingly, your point that "we let him off to easily" reminds me of a scene in Manhattan-- towards the end, the argument between Allen's character Isaac and his friend Yale (who's just betrayed him by starting to see Keaton's character again).

Yale: Don't turn this into one of your big moral issues.

Isaac: You could've said, but you... All you had to do was call me and talk to me. I'm understanding. I'd have said no, but you'd have felt honest.

Y: I wanted to tell you about it. I knew it would upset you. I... We had a few innocent meetings.

I: A few? She said one. You guys should get your story straight. Don't you rehearse?

Y: We met twice for coffee.

I: Hey, she doesn't drink coffee. Did you meet for Sanka? That's not too romantic. A little on the geriatric side.

Y: I'm not a saint, OK?

I: You're too easy on yourself. Don't you see? You're... You rationalize everything. You're not honest with yourself. You talk about you wanna write a book, but in the end you'd rather buy a Porsche. You cheat a little bit on Emily and you play around the truth with me. The next thing you know you're in front of a Senate committee naming names.

Y: You are so self-righteous. I mean, we're just people. We're just human beings. You think you're God!

I: I gotta model myself after someone.

Y: You just can't live the way you do. It's all so perfect.

I: Jesus, what are future generations gonna say about us? My God! You know, someday we're gonna be like him. And he was probably one of the beautiful people, dancing and playing tennis. And now look. This is what happens to us. You know, it's important to have some kind of personal integrity. I'll be hanging in a classroom one day and I wanna make sure when I thin out that I'm... well thought of.

***
So some part of Allen, at least a smidgen-- at least back then-- might feel some of your moral indignation. Even if in the end he'd behave more like, identify more with, Yale. But even here, something about the "moral" argument seems off-- self-centered, concerned with "personal integrity" and how one is "thought of"-- rather than concerned with others, those human beings one hurts or betrays.

Saint Croix said...

Crack, you should note that Woody Allen gets all of our society's rage, and Soon-Yi Previn got none of it. Zip. Nada.

She was 21. Hardly a rape victim, or a child bride.

She betrayed her adopted mother in a really awful way, as equally as awful as what Allen did. It's such a godawful thing to do, and so painful it's hard to imagine.

rcocean said...

"She betrayed her adopted mother in a really awful way, as equally as awful as what Allen did."

Really? How? Farrow and Allen weren't even married, their relationship was over. If it hadn't been Soon-Yi, it would've been some other 21 y/o.

And Mia Farrow was a freak who ran around adopting 20 kids, and giving them all about 5 minutes each of "quality time."

William said...

Look at Soon-Yi. She does not look like the kind of woman a successful movie director bonds with. Her chief attraction to Woody was her youth and the frisson of incest sex that she radiated.... This was dirty sex. Woody has a wisecrack: Is sex dirty? Only when it's good. Well, that's his superpower. He had extremely dirty sex and got away with it......There was a scene in the Sopranos where the shrink realizes that her ministrations to Tony Soprano only serve to make him a more effective sociopathic. Something similar seems to have happened to Woody. In the documentary, they say that he has this marvelous ability to compartmentalize. All during the scandal, he was able to go on with his work as if nothing had happened. Compartmentalize. Isn't that what successful gangsters do?....In the end, his longest lasting and most successful relationship has been not with any of the women but with his therapist or, perhaps, just with therapy. He was able to carry on because the most important relationship in his life had not been ruptured.....I've seen most of his movies. On DVD you get your money's worth. There's generally a few good lines that are delivered by engaging actors. Some interesting problems are entertained. But I can't help but think that his movies are all a scam, an elaborate puppet show that is put on to hide the deformities of the puppet master.

rcocean said...

I think Woody Allen's achievement is that he figured out what his "niche" audience was after "Annie Hall" and has never really gone beyond that.

Make a relatively low cost movie that stars some good actors - willing to work below their normal salaries - get good reviews and a modest boxoffice.

Almost Ali said...

Part of Woody Allen's genius lies in his ability to humorously mock "Shiksas" - i.e., non-Jewish girls, particularly Gentiles. And his perfect patsy was Diane Keaton, a natural, likable/lovable, Midwest, air-head of unerring ditzyness in real life.

Allen's genius is in not only recognizing such lightness of Shiksa being, but in portraying their absolute cluelessness on screen without the target - or the audience - being any the wiser (or upon discovery, writing it off as humor).

"Annie Hall" would have been virtually impossible to create without Diane Keaton. She fell into Woody's lap and, in essence, "taught" Allen everything he knows about Shiksas - not just the stereotypes, but living, breathing, in-the-flesh, Gentile females. These "lessons" weren't intentional, of course, but rather the rapid evolution of a perceptive director vs. the vapid actor.

The beauty of their relationship is the realization that even if Keaton (et al) somehow managed to “figure” it out, it simply wouldn't register. Because despite being forever typecast in stone, "playing" her quintessential self made her a movie star.

_____________

Interesting that Keaton talked in the documentary about - I'm paraphrasing - first; getting into Woody's head, and second: getting into Woody's heart. Here Keaton perceives herself as clever, AND romantically desirable (to Woody). When the reality is all business/humor (to Woody).

Mia Farrow was another woman altogether, and smart enough to challenge Allen on many levels. She certainly surprised me in Broadway Danny Rose, wherein she redeemed Shiksahood for the duration.

Allen is my favorite director because of his humor and abilty to exploit stereotypes of all stripes - even, and especially, his own.

New York said...

Conservatives make a mistake when they dismiss Allen, who provokes and makes you think about sex. He is, at his best, one of our finest filmmakers.

If conservatives were looking to be provoked and made to think about sex, they wouldn't be conservatives.

For that matter, many conservatives think that movies are for entertainment and don't expend brain power thinking about "finest filmmakers"