Thursday, February 09, 2012

Woody Allen


In the Brian Kellow biography of Pauline Kael, film critic of THE NEW YORKER for many years, Kael is quoted as saying, "Allen's obsession with repressive good taste 'is what keeps him from making great movies.'"

I see what she means. Every Woody Allen movie is preoccupied with beautiful New York, London or Paris apartments. With clothes, city scenes and music that you can't forget. Does this keep him from making a great movie? Has he made a great movie--this quote was from the seventies.

35 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - There are some Woody Allen movies I thought were really good, but I haven't seen a truly great one in a loooooong time.

James Reasoner said...

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS comes close to greatness. It doesn't quite get there, I think, but it comes closer than anything from Woody Allen in decades.

Al Tucher said...

Interesting point, but there might be some inverse snobbery in Kael's comment, as if a great movie couldn't be made about urban sophisticates. I have to admit, though, that I have lost interest in Allen's films since the early 90s.

Randy Johnson said...

I lost interest in his films after the early days. It might be twenty-five years since I even looked at one, the trailers usually being enough to turn me off.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I have seen almost all of his films with perhaps three exceptions. If we are looking for a profound examination of humanity I would say Crimes and Misdemeanors comes closest to it. And I agree, any segment of society can be part of an important film, but he does tend to spend a lot of time on the more superficial aspects. I think he lives in a rarefied world and has no idea about what real people struggle with. But does every film maker need to do that. And humor doesn't lend itself to deep examinations of a subject.

Ron Scheer said...

From a recent doc about him, I got the idea that he's more interested in quantity these days than quality. Given the choice between turning out a modest entertainment and waiting until moved to create another CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, he'll go for the modest entertainment. I enjoyed MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (and was nicely suprised by Owen Wilson's performance), and though not "great," I'm thinking, so what?

Charles Gramlich said...

Never really watched much of his stuff. It just seems so foreign to my life and the way I grew up. I guess it resonates with other people.

George said...

ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS rank high in my estimate of Woody's movies. I can still laugh at BANANAS and SLEEPER, too. And I have a soft spot for PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM. If I had an Oscar vote, I'd pick MIDNIGHT IN PARIS as the Best Movie of 2011.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I love all those movies. I have to say there was no movie that blew me away last year. I liked most of the nominees but none really outshone the others IMHO. But maybe Oscar doesn't demand a profound experience.

Anonymous said...

Looks like another of my posts here vanished. I pretty much endorse George's remarks, with ANNIE HALL and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS at the top of my favorites list. I also like TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN, BANANAS, MANHATTAN and this year's MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, though I'm not ready to endorse it for Best Picture until I see all the competition.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Jackie would like me to add THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and RADIO DAYS as among her favorites.

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

But would any Woody Allen film rank in your top 25 films of all time?

George said...

ANNIE HALL would.

Cap'n Bob said...

I think the big city and its daily life is his milieu and he explores it perfectly. He's also shown he can go outside that area successfully. I'm sure I'd place at least one of his films in my top 25.

Dan_Luft said...

I used to love his movies and HANNA AND HER SISTERS came out while I was a freshman in college. It was a perfect movie for a small town kid new in a city.

But I watch this or MANHATTAN or his other better films now and I just want to strangle them all. I want to scream at them that sleeping with him or her is just an obviously bad idea.

Kieran Shea said...

Great movie? Hmm. Sticking my neck out here...but in terms of philosophical weight CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS...which was mostly carried by Landau's stunningly, cold and torn character. But hell, I like almost all of his films.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That was the one that sticks out for me. It may not be my favorite but I think it was his best.

Anonymous said...

Yes, ANNIE HALL.

(George and I are not always in sync but we are on this one.)

Jeff

Anonymous said...

CRIMES was well done but - as you said - so cold.

We once saw Woody back before we were even married. We were in a hotel in Midtown (long story) and he just walked through. I think I was one of the few people who knew who he was at the time, certainly the only one to recognize him.

Jeff M.

Todd Mason said...

Even as Kael wasn't a critic of the first rank (and pronouncements such as that I think bolster my case...that was one of her many crotchets, that "Good Taste" made art impossible), Allen isn't a filmmaker of the first rank. He is far too much a narcissist.

"And humor doesn't lend itself to deep examinations of a subject." Extremely strongly disagree, but agree that trivial comedy doesn't lend itself thus, and that is Allen's forte. A good (or better) comedy usually does get at basic truths as much as any other approach would.

I've never seen all of CRIMES, I'll admit, so I should probably do so. I, too, had tended to grow tired of most of his films by that point, though I've seen a few of that era, and like MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT better than I do most of the others I've seen in toto.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

I'm rather fond of Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors and some others. Midnightb in Paris I found likeable but not great altho better than most of his output since the mid 90's. My favorite movie of the year was Drive. Snubbed by the Oscars(who nominated instead that terribe Tom Hanks film).

pattinase (abbott) said...

DRIVE was mistreated IMHO as was Ryan Gosling who could have been nominated for two films. They just won't look beyond holiday fanfare, will they?

Todd Mason said...

Let's not pretend Oscars are about art. Or even craft, beyond the technical Oscars. (Non-"industry" persist in pretending this. I don't know why.)

Erik Donald France said...

I love Woody Allen and most of his stuff. But these are apt points you make: "he does tend to spend a lot of time on the more superficial aspects. I think he lives in a rarefied world and has no idea about what real people struggle with. But does every film maker need to do that. And humor doesn't lend itself to deep examinations of a subject."

Peter Rozovsky said...

Annie Hall is a great movie. Hannah and Her Sisters is a family drama in which Woody Allen, playing the once character he knows how to play -- Woody Allen -- somehow wandered in from the set of another movie, and no one had the heart to ask him what he was doing there.

The one interesting question I've heard about Woddy Allen and urban sophistication speculates that his career might be one long quest for acceptance by New York sophisticates. A persuasive argument? It's good for cocktail-party chatter, anyhow.
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Deb said...

In my mind, ANNIE HALL was Allen's apex. After that, with an occasional exception, I've found his movies underwhelming.

Joe Queenan once said (the following is a rough paraphrase) that Woody Allen is the eternal college drop-out. Having been exposed to the big philosophical questions, but never having found a way to resolve them; so that years after most of us have found a way to live with "Who am I and how do I relate to others," Allen keeps attacking that question as if it's new and fresh and eye-opening.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It is sad to make your best movie in 1977 and then go one making movies for another forty years and never coming close to repeating that success.
I like that Queenan explanation and Peter's as well.

Todd Mason said...

And both are in support of my contention that he is a narcissist second-rater. Or is that too obvious to be worthy of note?

Richard R. said...

Just the name Woody Allen associated with a film keeps me from considering seeing it, in any venue (theater, rental, TV). I just got so tired of his BS back in the day and have never bothered to try again. So he could have been making great films or crap for the last two or three decades, I have no idea, nor do I particularly care.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Patti, I wouldn't say Woody Allen's artistic life has been a strong of failures since, and he'd been directing movies for a few years before Annie Hall. So he's not exactly like Mendelssohn or Orson Welles, whose first work was their best and who arguably never topped it.

pattinase (abbott) said...

But you did see growth in Take the Money, Bananas, Sleeper, Love and Death, and culminating in Annie Hall ( and I also like Manhattan.) I don't think we've seen much growth since then. Do you? He seems content to occupy himself with the upper east side or its equivalent in Paris, Rome or London forever. With no critique of that strata. He doesn't satirize them so much as embrace their foibles.

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

Growth is a tricky issue with any artist, maybe especially so with Woody Allen. He once said he wanted to make serious movies instead of comedies so he could sit at the adults' table rather than the children's.

That's a self-evidently stupid statement and says much about his artistic insecurity, if one is prone to analysis.

I suppose I might briefly have been sucked in by the proposition that "serious" work is somehow more profound than comedy and therefore represents growth. I'm not sure, but I once briefly may have pretended to like Interiors.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I thought I had liked it (moderately) for years. And then I saw it again. Nothing had ever rung falser in his work. If he had only added some satiric scenes, it might have been a great film.
Still, he must have something or I wouldn't go to almost every film.

Peter Rozovsky said...

Oh, he does have something, but he's a way better comedian than a, er, non-comedian. Just as Annie Hall is light-years better than Interiors, his comic essays are that much better than his serious writing. He should have stuck to imitating S.J. Perelman and never started imitating Ingmar Bergman.