Thursday, April 24, 2008


Being a lazy so and so, I have not yet written anything related to Film at 11's Andrew Sarris blogathon. But it's a neat idea - to put the internet hive mind to work classifying directors since 1968 - analyzing them, describing them... It gets me thinking about directors - where do they belong? Some I'm pretty clear about - the Pantheon types: Altman, Lynch, Cassavetes, Scorsese, the Coens and - if it isn't too soon - Wes Anderson; some of the others - Spielberg, Demme, Spike Lee, say, all seem Far Side of Paradise; Ang Lee seems like a good vote for Strained Seriousnes; doesn't Christopher Guest belong in Make Way for the Clowns? Paul Morrissey as Expressive Esoterica... But others, I'm not sure. Or - I have my thoughts, but I'm not sure how pther people see them. And that is a segue to the poll I just added on the side.

What do people think of Woody Allen these days? There were a couple Woody Allen posts on a blog I read (because I got into a fight with one of them last year) that made me realize, to my surprise, really, that I have seen 2 Woody Allen films from the last 20 years. This is more surprising because I had seen almost everything he made in the 80s when it came out - some of them (Zelig and Broadway Danny Rose) more than once, and happy to do it. He was, it occurs to me, the first filmmaker I probably learned to recognize and seek out. But now - who cares? How did that happen? Once I got geeky about films, I didn't give a crap about Woody Allen anymore...

But what do other people think? I don't remember seeing a lot of talk about Allen - not as a filmmaker anyway. What do you think? Answer the poll! Express an opinion! try to talk me into renting something other than Sleeper or Zelig again! Help explain why I couldn't' care less about Woody Allen yet like very much (to love) the likes of Whit Stillman, Noah Baumbach, Hal Hartley, etc.


Evan Waters said...

Really hard to say.


At the same time, MATCH POINT was a film I found really interesting right up until the point where Allen points us all to the correct and proper philosophical interpretation of events. It's like a nihilist's DON GIOVANNI.

I think he's very talented, but could perhaps stand to learn that ambiguity can be a good thing.

weepingsam said...

I wonder how much of my abandonment of Allen (for lack of a better term) is due to timing? I remember one of the causes was seeing films like Purple Rose of Cairo and Broadway Danny Rose turning up on cable, somewhere in the 90s - I liked them a lot when they came out, but seeing them again, they looked flat and bland. Clever dialogue, but... I wonder how much of that reaction was context: I saw them (the second time) either in the mid-90s, when I was steeped in Hawks and Hitchcock, getting into Hong Kong films, etc. - or in the late 90s, when I was steeped in Cassavetes and Ray Carney, on one side, and discovering Imamura, Bresson, etc. on the other. Either time would seem to work against Allen - what if instead I'd seen Allen after watching a bunch of Paul Morrissey, or Luc Moullet? As it was: those films (Purple Rose of Cairo and Broadway Danny Rose) both seemed dull to look at - long shots of Danny Aiello yelling, the camera just there... if I had seen them in different contexts, would they have looked like Allen was shooting them to maximize the effectiveness of their strongest elements, the script, the actors? that's how I saw them the first time, I think... But when I saw them later, it seemed like Allen didn't trust the camera or his words...

Most of his films, that's I've seen in the last 20 years, seem gimmicky and self-congratulatory to me. And some of it is probably their dead sober shooting style. My favorites - Sleeper and Zelig definitely, but most of the 70s films work - are usually even more gimmicky than the later ones, and his filmmaking chops are often rudimentary - but they seem a lot more playful. Or experimental, in Zelig's case. So maybe seeing the later ones next to Moullet or Morrissey would not help Allen's films - a lot of the appeal of the earlier ones is their disregard for technique, combined with a willingness to look amateurish, and make the way they look part of the joke. Never to the extent Moullet took the joke, but something like it. Of course both Moullet and Morrissey made some pretty gorgeous looking films - it's sly and understated and almost seems accidental, but it's there. That's missing from Woody Allen, too, I think.

Or thought the last time I looked at them. I am curious whether thats really there, and how much what I saw was colored by the other films I was looking at....

Erik said...

If the poll were still open, I'd mark the second from the top.

My favorite of Allen's films is Hannah and Her Sisters. I think it has the perfect balance of the "sacred" and the "profane"--that is, films he's made about serious issues, offset by his comic neuroses. And this film in particular sweeps me off my feet. And perhaps (in my opinion) the best moment of all his films is the moment when Caine is falling head-over-heels in love, which is at once tragic because of the pall riding over the film about how fleeting is such a moment.

I always judge a director based on his complete oeuvre, not the "what have you done for me lately". So I can't put him down too many rungs because he's made some really special films from the 70s to the 80s. I haven't been crazy about his recent offerings either, but that doesn't negate the good stuff.

Of his most recent films, I think I like his lighter-toned ones best, however imperfect they are, because whenever I am put into his (comic) universe, I feel so at ease. Maybe it's the familiarity of it. I pretty much know what's going to happen, in one way or another, but I like it at the same time, like I'm a kid being read fairy tales I've heard over and over, and yet wouldn't mind hearing again.