My Love/Hate Relationship with Woody Allen
There are very few celebrities that I take a vested interest in, and even fewer that I follow or hunt down in film just to watch. Billy Wilder is one. Humphrey Bogart is another. Chris Evans is a third. As for celebrities that I envy or dislike enough to avoid entirely, there aren’t many (since for the most part, I don’t really care). There are some actors who make me cringe, but they’re few and far between.
And then there’s Woody Allen.
Poor Woody. I don’t know exactly what it is about him, but he is the only actor/director that makes me go completely bipolar at the flip of a switch. Some days I love him. Other days I can’t stand him. Some films make me groan, others I wish I’d written. I have no idea why, but for some reason, Woody Allen is the one person in Hollywood that I could see myself having a love/hate relationship with.
Let’s take, for example, Woody’s tribute to movies: The Purple Rose of Cairo. Minus the last five minutes, I adored the film. If you put those five minutes back, I still love it. But, it took me a lot longer to love and accept it with those last five minutes. Woody makes a heroine out of Mia Farrow and grants the wishes of moviewatchers everywhere who wish that once, just once, that one character we love could just come off the screen. In The Purple Rose of Cairo, he does. It’s a movie made for people who love movies, with plenty of intelligent conversation, thought-provoking dialogue, and plenty of humour. He had me hook, line and sinker. And then, of course, came the last few minutes.
I’m sure Woody doesn’t mean to be depressing on purpose. Sure, he’s a little neurotic. But more and more often, it’s become such that you have to go into his films expecting something sad, maybe even a little depressing, which he typically saves for the end (Has everyone else recovered from the heartbreak that was Annie Hall?). Then again, life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it. And as disappointed as I am that Woody hates to give me a happy ending most of the time, he does reflect people well. In Woody’s defense, I haven’t seen anyone do such a great job of holding a mirror up to humanity in quite the same way that Woody does (with the exception of Mr. Wilder). He never makes anybody out to be an enemy. He simply presents the characters, complete with flaws and qualities, and allows the viewer to make their own decision. People can be depressing and angry and malicious and confused, and he shows them this way in all their glory. The problem is that this isn’t really Hollywood anymore. Hollywood is about cliches and it productions and happy endings. Woody is about people and pictures, and the beautiful union of the two.
So you see, it is a love-hate relationship. His film Midnight in Paris is now one of my favourite movies of all time and plays to my loves of nostalgia, writers and Paris in general. Then of course I think of how much I would have loved to write that film, and my love turns to jealousy.
Still, I don’t begrudge him making movies. He’s damn good at it, and constantly continues to challenge the way I think (I’m still not sure what the purpose of Shadows and Fog was). He also keeps pushing the limits of his own filmmaking rather than simply surrender to a formula, which is nice to see (the man even made a musical, Everyone Says I Love You!). And while we’re not going to be buddies any time soon, at least I’m not trying to boycott his films. I’ll still see them, hate them and then maybe love them, but that’s only as long as he keeps ignoring the Hollywood way to make films. It’s a long way from the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but it’s a start.