In Memory of Woody Allen

Remember Woody Allen?

I do. I once thought he was a great film maker.

The problem isn’t so much, “How did he get away with being a predator for so many years?” Rather:

“How did he get away with making such shoddy films for so many years?”

A Handful of Classics?

As a young person, I thought Love & Death, Sleeper, and especially Annie Hall were great films – funny, rich with observation and meaning, well-written. I learned a lot about writing from the non-linear, anecdotal style of Annie Hall.

Then came Manhattan. Very artsy, black-and-white, new-yorkey. I really wanted to like it. But I didn’t.

Honestly, the 17-year-old kid in bed disturbed me. I wondered – where are her parents? Do they notice she didn’t come home at night? Do school officials notice him lurking around the playground?

Isn’t New York Lovely?

But that was secondary to my disappointment with the film itself. The visuals were predictable and saccharine – the direct forerunners of a piece of schlock like Serendipity. It’s as if every still shot had a title under it saying, “Isn’t New York lovely?”

Worse – the writing. A typical blundering scene: Woody and the other male lead are arguing in a classroom. Between them is a chimpanzee skeleton – remember? A rather obvious symbol, no?

Apparently the auteur wasn’t so confident in his work – because Allen’s character actually says: “We’re no better than this chimpanzee!”

Wow! Talk about subtle insights from a cinematic master! Roll over, Truffaut!

Cheap Knockoffs – Of His Own Films

The whole film is in that vein. I saw it several times when it came out, hoping to find more in it -and finally had to realize it was just a cheap knock-off of Annie Hall.

And so it has gone ever since. About once a decade I accidentally see one of his films, mainly because the old video boxes used to hide his name in the fine print and play up the famous actors he suckered into believing he was an important film maker.

A few years ago, I read a short interview with Allen in which he was asked why he made so many films, instead of focusing on one project for longer. His answer:

“After six months I get bored with the project.”

We’re Bored Too

Woody – read that sentence aloud. You’re bored – and so are we.

That will be history’s verdict on Allen – not so much the predator stuff, which will tarnish many a Hollywood legend as the truth comes out.

No – he’ll be remembered for making a couple of funny films, followed by an endless string of shoddy, repetitious dreck.

And that will be true justice.

Photo: Take a nap, Woody!